Since when did books become the battleground?
Oh, they always have been.
The latest trend spreading like a virus around the internet at the moment is called Bash the Bookstagrammer, with grown up people, mostly women, deciding to write apparently well-thought-out, intellectual pieces about how people who use books on their Instagram accounts are damaging the good reputation of books by not using them in a proper sense. Some go as far as to say that they are using them intelligently and damaging the good reputation of books as a whole. Can you see me rolling my eyes?
Never mind that Bookstagrammers are a huge reason for the resurgence of hard back books, are introducing the love of books to a younger audience, are sought after by authors and publishers alike and are probably the most read people on the planet. No, never mind that; let’s just criticize them because we don’t understand what they do.
For those of you that don’t know what Bookstagram is, it is a way of using books to create photographic art; it’s that simple. You might understand it or you might not but whatever you think, it’s a popular, often beautiful expression of creativity. Oh, and it also encourages people to read more.
Yet it is considered bad, disrespectful and some would say idiotic!
We have to dig deeper, I think, to really understand what is going on here and what’s at play. There is a part of me that wants to scream jealously and wonders if those critics secretly wish that they could carve their own careers as artists or perhaps even string a few sentences together to create their own book, but that would just be bitchy. The investigator in me wants to understand why people are getting so hot under the collar about something that really, in the grand scheme of things, matters not one iota.
I think that this outrage is systematic of some worrying trends that concern me deeply.
Firstly, the shaming of women, and more to the point the shaming of young women. The majority of Bookstagrammers are women and even more of them are young women. Most of them are beginning to carve careers for themselves, being paid for the work they do and the photos they take and I think that some people feel threatened by that. It challenges not only the patriarchal system but also the belief that most people hold about women being successful on their own terms and how it simply shouldn’t be allowed in some way. And then the bias we seem to hold as a society particularly around young women is outrageous. We berate them for everything they do, from what they wear, how they speak, how they choose to spend their spare time and the fact that they create art with books. How is this helpful to society at all?
And then there is the bias we hold about Instagram; partly, no wholly the media’s fault in my opinion. I have tried several times to write articles on why Instagram is a good thing and is helping our youth, but no one seems interested. It doesn’t fit the narrative, yet they write again and again about how it is damaging our young girls self-esteem, based upon flimsy surveys that under scrutiny are not worth anything. We want to make Instagram the bad guy because then we don’t have to look at our failings as parents, teachers and society. Remember when we use to berate Facebook until the adults took it over and now it’s seen as a healthy place to network and talk to friends? I don’t know how we ever think we can support our young people while we deonimise them and what they do so much.
But for me, the hugely dangerous bias hidden under the surface in attacks like this is the way in which society sees the creative arts. Never mind that it brings in over 91 billion pounds to the economy, or that it is growing at twice the national average of any other industry; we still see it as lesser. We still favour our children becoming lawyers over film directors, we still favour the banking world over the publishing world, we still see intellect as being superior to creativity and we still favour letters after someone’s name rather than the social influence they have built around themselves.
In a world so broken, in a world where creativity and self-expression is needed more than ever, we still tear down and belittle these industries and those youngsters doing whatever they can to carve out careers for themselves. Perhaps the intellectual experts know that their time is coming to an end and while of course we will always need doctors and lawyers, it’s the creative ones that hold most of the power now. And the intellectuals who apparently can only see a book as something to read are perhaps fearful, knowing that soon expertise will mean little unless someone is on the operating table.
It’s not the fault of the Bookstagrammers that some people are so set in their ways and so void of creative thought that they can only see one use for one item. Surely this is your problem and not theirs. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s not fine.
Books have personally been a battlefield all my life; as a dyslexic, words were always my enemy and when I started my own business 17 years ago no one applauded my bravery and creativity, but they did pick up on my grammar. It’s the same thing that is happening now; no acknowledgment of the creativity and passion, just telling people off for not using the book correctly, whatever that means anyway.
Who gets the decide anyway? Surely, in the same way that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a book is what it means to the person holding it. And the opinion of so-called intellectuals should be kept to themselves because to be honest, no one really cares.
And as a society, a culture, an individual maybe we should think more, maybe we should value creativity more and maybe, just maybe, we should worry about what we are doing, how we are giving to society and how we are helping people rather than tearing others down.