A rise in teens reading: Social media’s impact on the classic pastime


Alexa Waser

Linganore senior Lily Reynolds reads one of her favorite books, “City of Girls,” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

by Alexa Waser, Editor-in-Chief

For so long, getting teenagers to read felt like pulling teeth. Over the last couple of years, however, this has seemingly changed. Many more teens today are willingly picking up novels and reading to fill their free time. 

This surge has been largely inspired by the conversations about books taking place throughout social media. Social media has changed the way many things are viewed, but how has it changed the way Generation Z reads?

Social media’s role in book sales has been crucial. Many users use TikTok to talk about books they love, including giving reviews, making jokes and attaching aesthetics to certain books. 

In other words, many users will use different songs and images to convince people to read certain books based on their aesthetic. These types of videos can be seen on #Booktok, which has gained over 100 billion views.  

Linganore senior Lily Reynolds has always been an avid reader. Her mom would read to her for hours as a child, and she has not stopped since. Reynolds sees the large impact social media has played in why more teens are now reading. 

“Just like anything else on social media, certain books go trending,” said Reynolds. “More people are reading and talking about them. People also use hashtags to find similar books that they have read.”

A particularly interesting corner of this reading phenomenon can be found on Tiktok where there is grouping of certain books with online personas or specific aesthetics. One example of a sub-genre being assigned to books is “femcel.

Female readers who assume the femcel label often associate themselves and the label with books containing female rage and suffrage. Some of these books include, “The Bell Jar,” “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” “ The Virgin Suicides,” “Girl Inturupted” and “Gone Girl.” These books are often shown in a series of Tik Tok videos alongside Fiona Apple songs, pearls, Dior lip oils and Miss Dior perfume with captions such as “POV: A man has never looked your way.” 

An Instagram post made by user girlblogger2008 implies that viewers should stay away from women who read these “femcel” novels. (girlblogger2008)

This content makes it really easy for young girls who identify with this type of character and the femcel style to be influenced to pick up these books, thus becoming more avid readers in general. 

For Linganore senior Ella Pritchett, social media–especially TikTok–has played a huge part in how she reads. 

“Social media has shown me some of the best books,” said Pritchett. “TikTok has shown me some of my favorite authors like Sally Rooney. She’s awesome!” 

 Linganore’s media specialist Marsha Thompson explained that while she is not seeing many more books being checked out from the Linganore Learning Commons, she does believe that more teens are reading and just getting their content from online sources. 

Even freshman Raelynn Shorey, who does not use social media, has noticed that more teens have been picking up books. 

“I’ve seen a few more people start reading … I’ve seen a few people bring their books everywhere they go,” said Shorey. “It’s making me quite happy.” 

Another reason so many teens have been reaching for books more lately is because they have rediscovered a love for reading during quarantine. 

Reynolds mentioned she believes that during lockdown more people had time to read and authors had more time to write. This, combined with the social media promotion, has made reading more popular with young people again. 

Pritchett herself reported that she first started to enjoy reading when given more time during quarantine. 

“I didn’t always enjoy it. Much like a lot of people during the pandemic, I started reading for fun,” said Pritchett. “I am really into movies, so I started to read a lot of the originals that I loved like ‘Pride and Prejudice.’” 

Thompson also shared how rediscovering reading is a reason for the trend in popularity. 

“I think in general, people like to read … When they [young children] learn to read, it becomes something that they enjoy, and then other things creep in … and it kind of gets put on the back burner,” said Thompson. “So, I think sometimes when it comes back … people rediscover it so they like it … Sometimes that’s sparked by a classroom assignment, or a peer, or a movie or something in social culture.” 

Reading has been shown to have many positive impacts, from improving memory to helping manage stress. It is even proven to improve empathy, which Reynolds has experienced first-hand. 

“I feel like reading has built up my empathy so much. Once you read enough books, you start to realize that everything can be explained, and it makes you start to think before you judge certain things or situations,” said Reynolds. 

Reading has also been described as “a healthy form of escapism,” which Thompson believes is a great reason for teens to read more. 

“It’s a great escape and they [students/teens] have a lot of pressures,” said Thompson. “It [reading] gives them a place where they can be anywhere they want, and meet interesting people, and have experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s just a nice escape from the pressures of everyday life.” 

As much as social media has had a positive impact on reading, it can negatively affect mental health in general. Reading is one way some teens choose to take care of their mental health. 

“I think when you’re reading, you get to separate yourself from anything you’re going through,” said Pritchett. “It also separates you from negative things on social media. 

With more people becoming aware of the negative effects of social media, reaching for a book instead of a phone is becoming a more popular choice with youth. 

“I think people are becoming more aware of how much time they spend on their phones, and [they] think, ‘okay, I should read a book,’” said Pritchett. 

Reynolds has also found that reading before bed has helped her sleep much better, consequently improving her mental health. 

Thompson encourages students, particularly those who struggle to enjoy reading, to really think about what topics they are interested in and keep trying different books. 

Thompson said students should “think about interests that they have and then see if we can’t find something along those lines to match … A lot of times, people will find that there are things that they really enjoy.

According to Thompson, “what often happens is a student will have a bad experience with reading for one reason or another … and then they’re like okay that’s it … which I don’t think we do with most other things. You don’t just totally shut everything else out … I want them to come back and try different reading experiences.” 

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