“On Bookstagram, you are valued for your personality, not for your physique”: when social networks are good for teenage girls

Charlotte says she has “Always been a round little girl, complexed by her physique”. In 2021, she created an anonymous account on Instagram, solely devoted to literature. “I wanted to share a lot of things, especially my passion for books. But even with my friends, I didn’t feel legitimate. I told myself that this would be an opportunity to chat with strangers, without taking the risk that they would judge me on my opinions or my tastes. »

Like her, on the social network, hundreds of thousands of users (mostly women) share photos and videos of their readings on a daily basis in order to discuss them with other enthusiasts. “Bookstagram is the safe space (space where you feel safe) who helped me gain self-confidence and self-acceptance”says the 16-year-old girl.

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Increased popularity during confinement

While the mental health of adolescents in France is worrying, especially among girls, and specialists attribute this malaise to the emergence of social networks, online literary communities like Bookstagram seem to be an exception. If it’s been almost ten years since this concept was created independently on social networks by a handful of enthusiasts, it was during the first confinement that it really gained in popularity. Thus, the #bookstagram hashtag, one of the most used by members, currently accounts for more than 91 million posts on Instagram; on YouTube, where the online book club concept was developed in the late 2000s, some content creators now have more than 70,000 subscribers; finally, on TikTok, where the phenomenon bears the name of BookTok, the hashtag has nearly 147 billion views.

Whether on Bookstagram or one of its variations, all of the young followers we interviewed describe a benevolent and supportive atmosphere, driven by intellectual exchanges and creativity. An image contrary to that which one can have of these platforms, regularly decried for their toxicity.

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“This has been my postulate for fifteen years: certain risks exist on social networks, but there are also great things that happen there”, says Angelique Gozlan. According to this clinical psychologist, who has devoted most of her career to analyzing the impact of social networks on the mental health of adolescents, these literary communities have a “undeniable positive effect” on young girls, for whom the experience of social networks can be more difficult to live than for boys.

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