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2020 was the year of the passion project. Despite all the turmoil and tragedy last year, people with more time on their hands started investing in themselves and their hobbies, resulting in lots of baking, craft, and art shops opening on Etsy and Instagram. While my hobby is difficult to monetize, I still wanted to take to social media and share it with friends. 

I created a bookstagram account in March 2020, after some encouragement from my friends and their promises to follow it. Bookstagram is the name for the Instagram community built around reading and books. I have always been a big reader, even keeping a reading journal since about 2018, but now, with spare time to read more, I wanted to use social media to document and share my thoughts and recommendations.

One of the first things I learned is that a large fraction of bookstagram accounts focus on the visuals, which is to be expected since Instagram is all about sharing pretty pictures. These accounts post beautiful bookshelves, color-coded book stacks, and heavily edited shots for carefully themed feeds. Captions are often a quote or a question for followers to answer, not necessarily book-related. I immediately knew that while I appreciated this style, I wanted my account to focus on the books and the reading experience. It would primarily be an outlet for my thoughts, rather than a pleasing display of book covers. 

The first thing that surprised me was how many casual acquaintances followed my account after I casually cross-posted my first post on my personal account. It was such a pleasant surprise to see how many people are willing to be supportive of a hobby they’re not necessarily interested in, just because someone they know is enthusiastic about it. On the other hand, I saw how many of these friends and acquaintances engaged with the content and started asking me for recommendations. I’ve received plenty of texts and DMs starting with, “Hey, I’ve been wanting to get back into reading…” I realized that what I consider an important part of my day is something that other people want to learn more about and even take up themselves. For someone who is considering starting their own platform to discuss their hobby or project, there will probably be far more support than you expect from your circle of friends. 

In terms of my reading life, bookstagram has helped me diversify my own reading habits. I used to read whichever book I happened to come across, whether it was recommended to me or whether I read about it and picked it up on a whim. Now, I’ve become more mindful of what I read, always looking for a book I think I’ll genuinely like and will be worth my time, and always looking for more diverse authors and stories. Bookstagram is a great place to find books other than the handful of bestsellers that everyone talks about all year. It has been great for finding books by people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community. 

After almost 1 year on bookstagram, I highly recommend investing more time in a hobby, regardless of what that looks like for each person. If you can find a community for it, even better, because that’s where you can spend time gushing about your interests with people who are as passionate about them as you are. It gives you an ongoing record of how you have grown within your hobby or talent, and it is a perfect way to destress and have something to invest time in that is not work-related or tied to productivity.

Maria Duque is a senior at Florida International University majoring in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communications with a minor in Marketing. She is also a student in the Honors College at FIU. She is interning at rbb Communications as a digital intern, and is the Director of Accounts at BOLD FIU, a student-run strategic communications agency. She loves culture and literature, helping people and making change, so she is determined to find a career that will allow her to integrate these interests. Her favorite project is running a bookstagram account where she reviews and recommends books (linked below).
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