May
16
2022

How TikTok’s ‘For You’ Page is platforming queer stories to the mainstream

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The online book-focused LGBTIQA+ subculture on TikTok is starting to change what inclusivity means in today’s literary world. 

With over a billion downloads, millions of monthly users, and hundreds of subcultures, TikTok has officially claimed its spot as one of the most popular social media platforms today. 

As well as dance and lifestyle videos, an extremely popular genre of videos on the platform is known as ‘BookTok’; a space for book lovers to recommend and discuss their favourite (you guessed it) books! 

During the dreary COVID-19 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, many people found solace in fictional worlds. This excess of free time allowed used-to-be and never-before readers to pick up books for the first time in (what felt like) forever. As for the younger demographics, while they dusted off books, they also posted updates and video reviews on TikTok.  

This new platform connected readers around the globe and created a network of literary conversations. ‘BookTok’ offers fans of any and all genres a place to safely discuss their chosen books, and increase awareness of their favourite lesser-known or published categories. 

As well as being filled with small personal accounts, ‘BookTok’ users can amass large followings of viewers keen to hear their opinions. These influencers’ opinions on books have large effects on audiences and can lead to specific books becoming trends of their own.  

Red White and Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston, a MLM (man loves man) novel follows Alex, a president’s son, and Henry, a prince, as they go from enemies to lovers. The book first gained a following in early 2020, at the beginning of ‘BookTok’, and has now received over 578,000 reviews and ratings on Goodreads, averaging 4.19 stars out of 5. Another immensely popular book is Hearstopper, the graphic novel series by Alice Osman which has maintained a 4.5 average star rating and was recently produced by Netflix into a television series. 

Both novels were popularised by the large LGBTIQA+ community within ‘BookTok’. This large community promotes many lesser-known (often independent) queer books and authors, ultimately transforming them into bestsellers. Also including a wide range of genres from fantasy to biographies, this community provides audiences with queer representations in every genre.  

Other extremely popular examples include: 

These types of online communities are so important and impactful, as never before has LGBTIQA+ literature found such a passionate and engaged following, strengthened by a platform that offers a modern way of communicating.  

Tik Tok educates individuals on how to include more positive queer literature on their bookshelf as well as how to identify harmful and inaccurate representation. The ‘BookTok’ community works together, changing attitudes toward queer novels as well as changing the meaning of what inclusivity looks like in modern literature.  

 

Written by JOY work experience student, Erika Loft. Erika (she/her) is a high school student in Melbourne who loves to read and hang out with friends, and at school loves all things Art and English.