It’s a Sunday afternoon; the waiter comes over to deliver your food, placing your orders neatly in front of you whilst introducing what’s on the plate. He asks if you want Parmesan cheese, says “bon appetit” and leaves. Mum smiles, picks up her knife and fork and is about to tuck in when you yell “STOP!”. Thank God you caught her before it was too late. You rearrange the table, ask Dad to lean out of the shot, do a funny half-stand-but-with-knees-still-bent and take a picture of your meal. Perhaps you’ll do one for Snapchat, swipe twice to get the good filter and write the words “get in my tummy” or insert the love heart eyes emoji. And then you’ll open up the proper camera, take some with flash (risky), some without, ready to pick the best for Instagram and post sometime between 7 and 10pm in order to maximise your chances of getting at least 11 likes.
Foodstagramming has taken over. With nearly 80 million pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #foodporn, and 39% of us admitting to arranging our plates with the intention of taking a photo of it, it’s clear that we’ve become a nation obsessed with capturing every mealtime. I can almost guarantee that everyone who has been on social media today has seen a picture of food amongst other key suspects – tanned toes with a backdrop of sandy beaches, someone at the gym, and a meme about being drunk. Before I go on though, I’ll hold my hands up and admit to being just as guilty of foodstagramming as the next person, and I too have hashtagged #eggcelent after a poach I’m proud of.
Now there used to be a time when families would sit around the table and say Grace before tucking into their meal. This has now been replaced with Grace Version 2.0, a photoshoot with holy words such as Hudson, Amaro and X-Pro. Sometimes, when you’re really hungry, you accidentally sin and take a bite before you take a picture. Once you’ve realised, you spend a good few minutes contemplating the idea of still taking that photo sans garnish and when coming to the (right) decision not to, you finish the rest of your meal begrudgingly. It’s worse if you’ve gone out to eat, particularly if it’s somewhere new or edgy – what a waste of money if your 600 Facebook “friends” don’t know that you’ve been there, better check-in instead.
But why do we take so many pictures of food? We can sit and scroll through our camera roll for hours, looking back at pictures of nights out or holidays and reminisce with your family and friends, but surely there are very few people who scroll through pictures of previous meals and mumble to themselves, “good thymes”? With reference to psychology, some believe those who persistently take pictures of food are demonstrating potential mental health or eating disorders. We only take pictures of things that are important to us; therefore taking pictures of every meal represents a high level of importance attached to food, one that could be deemed obsessive and unhealthy, regardless of whether it’s a green smoothie or a quarter-pounder. In conjunction with this, sharing the photos on social media is just another way of humans exhibiting their online self. Sharing pictures of kale smoothies or quinoa dinners is a way of showing people you’re in control, seeking a virtual pat on the back from a fellow Instagrammer when they double tap the screen. And at the same time, sharing your mountainous roast dinner or ice cream sundae is a way of showing your rebellious side, or if you go to Nando’s, showing followers just how cheeky you really are.
But you being snap-happy doesn’t actually make everyone that happy. The habit has pissed off waiters and chefs around the world, so much so that more and more restaurants are banning photography on site and won’t hold back on embarrassing those who stupidly brave it whilst forgetting to turn the flash off. It is considered disruptive to other diners and fitting in 10 minutes of photography before taking the first mouthful means food goes cold and takes away from the real purpose it is there to serve. On the flip side though, with many restaurants encouraging diners to share their meal online and using us as advertising platforms, there is an ever-increasing recognition that businesses can in-fact capitalise on the trend. One example of this was seen in May 2014 when the pop up shop The Picture House allowed diners to “pay” for their meals through posting it on Instagram with the hashtag #BirdsEyeInspirations. Guests thought they were lucking out and getting a free meal, but really they were just used as tokens in Bird’s Eye’s very clever marketing technique.
Foodstagramming is inherent to Generation Y and as more and more people become self-proclaimed foodies, our social media feeds will become more and more food-oriented. With that in mind, I think we all need to spend a bit more time assessing the need to post said pictures online, as it’s clear it’s all getting a bit too much. Photographing individual glasses of wine is probably one that should have been culled a long time ago and we need to remind ourselves that it is in-fact OK to have avocado on toast and not tell anyone about it. We need to start enjoying food for what it is, devouring it not photographing it, and when it comes to mealtimes we should remind ourselves that, 9 times out of 10, the only thing worth filtering is our coffee.
Pictures are not my own.