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Social media encourages uptick in reading among teens and young adults


College students discuss how TikTok has inspired their reading habits

 

By JALAN TEHRANIFAR — features@theaggie.org

 

In the past few years, there has been a rise in the popularity of reading among teens and young adults. Although reading has been highly encouraged throughout grade school and college by some parents and teachers, some students say that social media has influenced them to read more outside of the classroom. 

Ashlynn Wang, an incoming second-year communications major at UC Davis, read a lot as a child because her parents would take her to libraries and bookstores after school, but she said that as she started middle school, the time she spent reading decreased.

“I would say that it was slightly out of character for me to randomly pick up reading again this summer, but I think some of it can definitely be attributed to childhood habits,” Wang said.

Wang said that she also believes her return to reading is partially due to TikTok’s influence, but cautioned that social media can be a “double-edged sword.”

“[Social media] has broken my reading streak and shortened my attention span, but some recommendations on ‘BookTok’ have also made me curious to read more,” Wang said. “I read The Midnight Library and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo because of BookTok.”

‘BookTok’ is a subcommunity on the social media platform TikTok where video creators share book recommendations and engage in discussions related to books they have read. The rise of the trending hashtag ‘#booktok’ on TikTok has even had a impact on book sales, so much so that national book retailer Barnes & Noble has adopted the hashtag as a marketing strategy and is partnering with TikTok creators and the social media platform itself to create a social media challenge

“I visited Barnes and Noble and picked up a book I saw trending on BookTok in an attempt to get back into reading and it worked,” Wang said.

Wang also said that having more free time without school helped her get back into reading this summer. Her reading recommendation for college students is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, but she advises students to read the list of trigger warnings before purchasing the book.

“It’s a short, philosophical and brief read that faces the hypothetical question of ‘What if my life was [different]?’ that many of us think about,” Wang said. “I think it’s a really good read for college students, especially during a time period when self-discovery and identity is such a revolving theme.” 

Leeann Ramirez, an incoming first-year biology major at Cal Lutheran University, said her dad encouraged her to read a lot as a child because “knowledge is power,” but she recently rediscovered her love for reading as a way to indulge in creative things. 

Ramirez said that she believes the trending book-related TikToks combined with the COVID-19 quarantine have influenced reading popularity in recent years. 

“I feel strongly that the pandemic hit many people hard,” Ramirez said. “Many started to incorporate new things or just started new hobbies and I think reading was definitely on the top list, especially since BookTok became very popular [and] many people actually started reading again. I know [BookTok] did get me reading a lot more with that time at home.”

Ramirez’s reading recommendation for college students is The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, a book that she said helped her to grow as an individual when she was experiencing tough times.

“[The book] is about a man who dies and he goes through five stages and learns a lesson from each one,” Ramirez said. “I think all the lessons from each person we can somehow relate to due to past experiences or ones we are facing now. I think it’s a wonderful book to recommend to college students because we are entering a new environment and we won’t have our parents with us all the time so the people we meet [and the] experiences we make really impact our lives. Acceptance, eternal peace and sacrifice [are] just some elements you find throughout the novel.”

Many bookstores have dedicated an in-store bookshelf to display books that are trending on social media, such as large chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble and even downtown Davis’ very own Avid Reader on 2nd Street.

Emily Sardaryan, an incoming first-year psychology major at Pepperdine University, said social media not only convinced her to start reading but was the source that recommended some of her favorite books to date.

“I’ve always liked the aesthetic of going to a bookstore and reading, but that was about it,” Sardaryan said. “Now, I’m actually reading, and it’s all because book recommendations won’t get off my TikTok.” 

 

Written by: Jalan Tehranifar — features@theaggie.org

 



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