I’m an obsessive Instagram user (@mrmikelawson). It’s sometimes embarrassing how I will drop everything that I’m doing to grab my iPhone and snap a photo. And I sometimes get so obsessed with finding something to Instagram that I stop really appreciating all of my other senses…smell, sounds, danger intuition.
I talk with people (formally and informally) about my love for social media and how we’ve started communicating differently in the past five years. Haters gonna hate, and many times skeptical people say something like, “why do I care what you ate for lunch.” It’s a fairly common opinion that Instagram users just wasting their time by documenting the inane with photographs. I’ve been told directly that social media services like Twitter and Instagram are making the world a worse place to live.
I would actually argue that the exact opposite is happening. People that take photographs of food and share them on the internet are saving the world.
Traditionally, “breaking bread” has brought people together. I don’t think that I need to explain the value of sharing a meal with friends or family. When I was growing up we had mandatory dinners and although it may have not been intentional, these meals grounded me and helped me to realize that I wasn’t alone. “I” wasn’t eating dinner. “We” were.
In the past 30 years it’s become more normal to “grab something quick” instead of setting the table and planning ahead of time. The valuable “let’s do lunch” has been replaced with emails pounded out between bites. And many of the conversations that we absorb over meals are fictional ones between characters on the TV. And this is undoubtedly unhealthy. Quick and easy is rarely nutritious and wholesome.
Social media has created a shift in the way that we communicate. It’s no longer necessary to have hour-long telephone calls with your friends across the country to catch up, because we now keep current with everything that is happening via their Facebook pages. And it’s true that we are no longer sitting down and stuffing our faces with friends…or at least less frequently. We are, however, re-creating the valuable conversations that revolved around food and our food choices with the Instagramification of dinner.
More than 60 photos per second are uploaded to Instagram. Of course not all of them are food…there are a few cat pictures thrown in too. There are, however, millions of food snapshots uploaded per day. Food is social. Eating doesn’t just keep us alive, but it also allows us to connect with others. The ancient greek philosopher Epicurus said, “We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.” We take pictures of our food (and shamelessly slap on a vintage filter to make them look hipster) and post them on Instagram and Twitter because we want to share. We want to share our meals, even if we are eating alone.
Food is social, but as the world changes and the word “social” is getting a new look, so will the way that we share.
Don’t let the Instagram food-haters bring you down. If the first thing you think after the waiter drops off your plate is, “what filter am I going to use?” – you’re doing it right.