The notorious “foodstagrammer”… You all know one. It’s that person that shows up on your Instagram feed every single day with an update on his/her latest lunch, the person that can’t sit down for a meal without snapping a picture of it first. It’s also often the person that allows their ice cream to melt all over their hand just to get that perfect artistic shot, and who will stand up on a chair in the middle of restaurants just to get the perfect aerial shot of the table.
As you scroll through your feed, you may see pictures of big juicy burgers, or perfectly decorated smoothie bowls, designed to elicit in you your own sense of food envy. And this trend of sharing with others that delicious sandwich you had for dinner yesterday is getting more popular everyday. In fact, 52% of people take photos of food with their mobile phones at least once a month. Another 19% upload those photos to the web. And currently, there are over 67 million photos with the hashtag #foodporn on Instagram.
We all notoriously crop, edit, and filter our lives on our social media platforms in order to portray the ideal and perfect image of the life we live. We pick and choose the snapshots that represent the best image of ourselves. And for the “foodstagrammer,” this careful refinement can often extend to how they represent the daily act of eating. Because obviously, if you didn’t take a picture of your #foodporn, did it even happen?! A glimpse at a person’s diet as depicted on Instagram is far from reality. On Instagram it’s easy to give the impression that the users stray from the perfectly clean, the perfectly healthy, or the perfectly aesthetically beautiful food which is posted on their feeds. And it is easy to forget that these beautifully edited snapshots of delicious food are neither realistic or normal depictions of a healthy, everyday diet.
I admit, I too am one of these so-called “foodstagrammers.” I take pictures of a lot of the food I eat and I make. I have fallen prey to all of the habits above (except I’m proud to say I have yet to put my coffee on the floor just to get the perfect shot of the latte art). However, while I recognize feeling the need to share each bite taken can definitely have it’s downsides, Instagramming what I eat has also helped me change my relationship with food, and for the better.
As someone that has struggled with an extremely destructive relationship with food, I was able to heal my relationship with and reestablish my love for food through taking pictures. In the quest to heal my mind and my body from the damage my harmful relationship with food had done, I fell in love with making food art. Photographing my food helped me rediscover the value in what I was eating again.
As I began to practice photographing and posting pictures of food on my own social media account, I realized I had found a platform that allowed me to express myself creatively. Instead of viewing food as the enemy in my life, I could instead view food as something I could make beautiful, both through the presentation of the food itself and through the act of photographing it.
What started as just simply photographing and posting some of my food quickly developed into a personal endeavor to developing and sharing recipes. It helped me to think about the ingredients I was putting into what I made, and how they would nourish my body. It helped me to think outside the box, experimenting with new ingredients and foods that I would have never have eaten before.
As someone that has maintained my own personal “foodstagram” account for about a year now, it has also given me a lot of perspective about the seemingly commonplace and simple act of snapping a photo of what we eat. I’ve learned that when I go to take a snap of my meal at the restaurant, not to value the food, or the photo, or the carefully cultivated image I’m creating over the actual time I’m spending with friends. It is important to remember the authenticity of the experience over the artificiality of the moment I am trying to represent.
I know that I can’t allow my passion for making and photographing food to become just another way to exert control over what I eat. And I know that it is extremely important that I am someone that does not promote one way of eating on social media as the right way of eating, because I firmly believe there is absolutely no correct way to eat that is universal to all.
So while no, I promise I won’t embarrass you by being the one to stand up on the restaurant chair in order to get the perfect shot of our plate of tacos, I am going to keep on photographing what I eat. As someone that discovered the importance of food as both nourishment and as a medium for creative expression, I believe there is value in what we eat, and sometimes, it deserves to be shared.
If you want to talk to Maggie Harriman about her Instagram, contact her at mpharrim ‘at’ Stanford ‘dot’ edu.