I have never enjoyed having acquaintances. While I love spending time with humans, I’m an introvert and social interactions require a lot of energy. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like talking to people I don’t know. Meeting new people is not a fun activity for me. I need a lot of alone time. So I don’t like spending my precious time-with-people with people I don’t love. I like one-on-one convos and tiny gatherings of my nearest and dearest. It’s been this way for most of my life. I don’t put much (any) effort into maintaining acquaintance-level relationships. For the most part, either I’m all in or we haven’t talked in years.
Recently, though, something strange, delightful, and new has happened: I have internet friends. In reality, they are more like acquaintances. But internet acquaintances doesn’t have a nice ring to it. And whereas relationships with people I consider acquaintances in real life have always felt exhausting and limiting, relationships with my bookish internet friends bring me so much joy.
They aren’t people I know intimately, or who I’d turn to in a crisis. These bookish internet friends of mine don’t call me crying, and I don’t text them at 2 a.m. when I can’t sleep. We don’t know each other’s relationship histories. Lots of people do have interest friends like this — which is wonderful! But it’s the fact that these relationships are not that that makes them so exciting to me. I understand the value of intimate friendships, whether they happen online or IRL. But I’ve never understood the importance of less intimate relationships, or why anyone would seek them out. Until now, I thought they just weren’t for me. How wrong I was.
I may be the last person ever to discover the wonder that is talking with strangers on the internet about books until those people start to feel like an important part of your life. But I’m here now, and my reading life is so much richer because of it.
Earlier this year, I did a mini Bookstagram project where I posted a queer book rec every day in June for Pride. During that month, I was a lot more active on Instagram than usual. I started replying to people’s stories and commenting on their posts. Since then, I’ve gone back to my sporadic social media ways. I post now and again, when I feel like it. I’m far too lackadaisical about it to ever become a full-fledged Bookstagrammer with a ton of followers. Happily, that’s not what matters to me. I decided to post every day in June because I love queer books and like shouting about them. I didn’t expect to make any new bookish friends. But the few connections I made during that month have stuck, and now they’re my favorite part of Instagram.
These bookish friendships are super chill. We sometimes reply to each other’s stories. We get excited about the same books, and exchange exclamation-filled DMs about them. We rarely talk about anything other than books, and our conversations are rarely profound. We sometimes exchange opinions, but a lot of the time it’s more like this: “that book was AMAZING, can’t wait to hear your thoughts!” or “oooh, you’ve made me want to read that book immediately!”
Over time, I’ve gotten to know a little about the kinds of books these other readers enjoy, and where our tastes overlap. One bookish internet friend and I have bonded over our love of Weird Queer books (it’s an official genre now, just go with it). When she mentions a Weird Queer book, I almost always add it to my TBR immediately. Another bookish internet friend and I often chat about audiobooks. I pay attention to the narrators she likes, because I know there’s a good chance I’ll love them too.
Honestly, it’s all very boring. Not the actual gushing over books/recommending books to each other/puzzling over books we did not love — but just the fact of it. Basically, I’ve discovered that it’s super fun to consistently talk to the same people on the internet about books. This isn’t exactly life-changing stuff.
But I can’t stop thinking about it. The internet is full of nonsense, and social media especially often feels like a black hole. The endless doom scrolling. The performative activism. The constant need to present a perfect version of yourself. Or an authentic version of yourself (whatever that is). Real violence is done on the internet, too. It’s not neutral. Sometimes, despite all the good I know exists in the virtual world, I just want it to go away.
And that’s why it’s worth celebrating the fact that social media has not only given me this gift of bookish internet friends, but taught me something new about connecting with other people. I thought I knew what I needed to have a fulfilling social life. But it turns out that these small internet interactions with people I’ve never met are filling a void I didn’t know was there.
Partially, these relationships mean so much to me because I don’t have many real life friendships based around books. But it’s also wonderfully freeing. I don’t feel any pressure to show every part of myself to bookish internet friends. We’re just people who like talking about books. That’s it. I don’t need for us to be close, or to meet in person, or become the kind of internet friends who are there for each other in emergencies. I don’t want these bookish friendships to change at all. They aren’t relationships that have to “go somewhere” in order to be valid. I may not want acquaintances in the physical world, but I sure do want bookish internet ones. Now that I have them, I can’t imagine life without them.