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The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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Booktok promotes toxic and misleading dynamics

Social+media+communities+such+as+Booktok+can+promote+unhealthy+relationships+to+an+impressionable+audience.
Sophia Sepulveda
Social media communities such as Booktok can promote unhealthy relationships to an impressionable audience.

You’ve been in a reading slump lately and are now craving a good romance novel to revive your love for reading. You turn to TikTok for book recommendations and gravitate towards the hashtag “BookTok” which has over 28.3 million posts. After anticipating to discover your next favorite book, you are baffled at what you find.

A significant amount of the most popular romance books on BookTok are filled with plots involving physical and emotional abuse and toxic relationship standards.

Young teenagers are being led astray by the overwhelming negative influence of BookTok and its constant promotion of romance novels that glorify misogynistic ideas, toxicity, and abusive relationships.

Words like “controlling” and “abusive” don’t exist in the world of BookTok. These negative concepts cover their tracks by disguising themselves as “dark romance”.

Dark romance novels follow storylines that contain an extreme power imbalance between characters. These plotlines could range from anything between emotionally manipulative relationships to hostage situations. Such novels romanticize abusive and controlling tactics, and they can become desirable to vulnerable teens that are unaware of what healthy relationships look like.

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover is an example of a popular BookTok novel that perpetuates the normalization of power imbalances and emotional abuse in relationships. The female lead falls for the male lead, who is emotionally absent.

This novel normalizes the man’s domination over the woman, telling her what she can and cannot do. He belittles her, and uses unhealthy coping mechanisms to make himself feel better, all while the woman falls in love with him. The terrifying fact about these narratives is that impressionable teens are being told by thousands of BookTok users that this behavior is completely normal.

Older audiences that come across unhealthy romance books can identify the toxicity of the story more easily. Because of this, they are able to redirect themselves to other novels without any lasting damage. That said, young teens have no defense against this behavior because these novels constantly tell them that having a controlling and jealous partner creates a fun and successful relationship.

According to Planned Parenthood, dating violence is when your partner hurts you or repeatedly tries to control you. Abuse can be physical, but it can also be emotional and isolating.

The romance novels “BookTok” promotes are convincing teens that controlling and isolating behavior means that your partner loves you an incredible amount and wants to protect you. In reality, it is a common method abusers use to emotionally guilt their partner into staying with them.

Because TikTok is such a massive platform, untrustworthy, self-published authors are able to promote their stories to a much larger audience than they could before. Their unfiltered stories often strike the interest of young, naive teens who don’t know any better.

Companies like Barnes & Noble and other bookstores are recognizing this pattern on BookTok taking advantage of it. Many bookstores now have a BookTok section that is geared towards teenagers. These sections usually contain tables with a mountain of misogynistic romance books and a cute sign that reads “BookTok Recommendations” on top. Companies that do this are further contributing to adolescents being influenced by the harmful behaviors they enconter.

TikTok is used by a large range of ages. As a result, many users may believe it is not their responsibility to shield young viewers from this toxicity because the platform is meant for everyone. This idea is detrimental to the upcoming generation.

According to Axios, 63% of teenagers reported that they use TikTok regularly. Many of those teens are being exposed to abusive content every single day. All TikTok users are responsible for not spreading misogynistic and abusive content across the platform.

While no one benefits from seeing that kind of content, it has a much bigger impact on younger minds. Older generations of writers are taking advantage of teenage innocence and use BookTok to promote abuse and misogyny as entertainment.

There are other websites that teenagers can turn to for book recommendations, a popular one being Goodreads. On Goodreads, all novels are sorted into categories and each have their own summary. This allows for readers to find their new favorite novel completely on their own and without any influence from others.

Ultimately, teenagers should not  use BookTok to find their next romance novel because they will likely encounter novels with abusive, toxic, and misogynistic plot lines. Reading glorified toxicity at such a young age, could have everlasting effects on young teens and their romantic relationships.

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