A decade ago, my oldest and dearest girlfriends—women I’ve known since elementary school—teased me mercilessly for not being on Facebook.
“Stretch your comfort zone a little!” they said. “It’ll make it so much easier for us all to stay in touch.”
They were probably right, but in its burgeoning stage, social media wasn’t something I felt comfortable with. I was reluctant to put myself out there, and other people’s posts mostly gave me headaches—and anxiety.
My friends ended up getting together and creating a Facebook account in my honor. They named me Irving Goldman so my identity would be kept secret, and they showed me how to log in.
Within a few weeks, I’d misplaced Irving’s password.
Sometimes I think about him, and I hope that he’s OK.
Last year, for a work project, I was required to create a Facebook account—which is to say a real one, with my own name attached to it. My friends thought that was hilarious.
I complied, begrudgingly, but after the project was finished, I never went back. After all, I had other things to think about.
I first stumbled upon Instagram in 2016 and fell instantly in love. I appreciated that I could choose exactly what I wanted to see in my feed, and the mindless, pretty photos always made me feel happy. Cute doggies, well-appointed houses, fabulous outfits: it was all in there, tailored just for me. But it wasn’t exactly a give-and-take relationship.
My initial IG handle was an uninspired “labird1974,” and true to form, I never posted anything of my own. I’m not photogenic, I rationalized, and I know nothing about camera angles or lighting or composition.
All of these things were true, but that wasn’t the real issue.
I’m a voracious reader—I have been for my entire life. I was an honors English major in college, and books are my passion, my pastime, and my therapy. While scrolling through IG one afternoon, I decided on a whim to post a review of a novel I’d just finished, even though I had zero followers. I threw together a few sentences and taught myself how to use hashtags. Nervously, I clicked “Share,” and my very first social media post was born.
I had no expectations, but within minutes I got a comment. And a follower. And then a few more. I was astounded: who were these people?
I quicky learned that they were #bookstagrammers.
It turns out there are a gaggle of people who—just like me—are obsessed with reading. They welcomed me into their community with open arms, and I straightaway changed my handle to “laura_at_the_library” because I’d finally found my people.
Thanks to #bookstagram, I have been able to communicate directly with some of my favorite authors—Steven Rowley, Jenna Blum, and Christi Clancy, to name a few. I’ve been invited to participate in virtual book clubs across the country (Hartford, Connecticut, here’s looking at you!). And I was even asked by one of my bookish friends in Iran to procure an illicit copy of a banned book for her. (Reader, I did it.) These unexpected connections have offered me substance as well as delight, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged on.
I’m living proof that social media as a whole might not be for everybody. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok—there are a lot of choices, and they can be incredibly intimidating. But if you push deeper, just like a bookworm in an apple, you’ll find your way to a space where you belong.
By Laura Anne Bird
Mom, fundraiser, blogger, and ardent reader, Laura loves literary fiction, memoir, essays—and helping people find their perfect book. Laura was an English major at the University of Notre Dame and now lives in Madison, WI. Among other projects, she writes for The Whole Fairy Tale and BRAVA Magazine.