Food & Drink Muse

'Photogenic food' - The Instagram Food Feed

Sophie Burton discusses the pros and cons of social media as the obsession with 'food photos' grows.

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Image Credit: Marco Verch

Food photos. They’re everywhere. Whether you're a lover of the trend with a camera roll full of your favourite meals, or a hater who sighs every time you see someone pick up their phone in a restaurant, I’m sure you’ll have noticed the rising presence of the ‘food feed’ on social media. Particularly through lockdown, more and more people have taken to posting their meals, recipes, and lifestyle surrounding their diet. Whilst some people will tut in disapproval, given that your food will go cold whilst you're messing around with camera angles, there are some positive aspects to this new trend, particularly for students. Let's be honest, the relationship between students and food can take many forms, some are professional chefs in the making whilst others will find whatever they can throw together.

Even if you do see yourself as the next Jamie Oliver, I’m sure you’ll have experienced what it's like to be stuck in a food rut, at a loss for inspiration, lacking the motivation to cook and rotating the same age-old recipes on a loop. This is where I have found solace in the stream of food-related social media content, sometimes seeing what someone else throws together can reignite that spark and give you new ideas. A lot of content can also be beneficial for making cooking accessible to those who haven't done it before. Many Instagram Reels and Tik-Tok videos condense things down to an easy follow-along approach and people are posting step by step videos and photos of home-cooked meals that look incredible but are super easy to make.

It’s fantastic to see people who haven't been interested in cooking before to be inspired by what they see online to learn new skills and get stuck in! And it's not just the basics that are covered, there is something to learn for everyone as more content is produced. I personally have been fascinated by the amount of vegan, gluten and dairy-free recipes I’ve come across lately which have been surprisingly simple to make but really tasty, and appreciated greatly by my friends and family with dietary requirements.

However, like with all social media, what started as a lighthearted trend has developed into something which can sometimes be more problematic. There’s a difference between inspiration and modelling your whole life around what you see. Everyone is guilty of comparing their own life with what they see online at some point. When your Instagram feed is filled with snaps of expensive restaurants or meals cooked using premium ingredients, if your financial situation isn’t the same as the people who are paid to post, you might look down at your plate with feelings of embarrassment or shame. It’s important to remember that not everything is how it appears on social media. Everyone has days where their meals aren’t as glamorous, even your favourite influencer.

Another emerging issue as people publicise their lives comes in the form of ‘What I Eat In A Day’ videos. Although harmless on the surface, these posts can be a lot more damaging than they first seem. The issue is that, on the whole, there’s an attitude that what people broadcast on social media sets a precedent, an expectation of what we ‘should’ do. Everyone’s body is different, everyone’s metabolism and calorie intake varies. What one person may eat on one specific day could be vastly different from someone else but also from their own diet another day. For someone with an eating disorder or who suffers from anxiety or obsessive thoughts surrounding food, these posts can be a dangerous thing, setting back months of progress or second-guessing their own body. It’s difficult to deny that social media culture encourages more judgement in our society; we judge people on what they post without even thinking twice, and we judge ourselves for where we perceive ourselves to be in comparison to what we see.

Although food can be a hobby and an interest, it’s also a basic human need to fuel our bodies, in the same way as sleeping and using the toilet. I’m not saying we shouldn’t post anything regarding food on social media, I just think it’s important to think carefully about the messages we're sending others and have some perspective and distance when we interact with these posts, remembering what you see should never be an indication of what you ‘should’ be doing.

On the whole, I think there are some exciting and innovative ideas being generated from the recent social media spotlight on food. I’ve spoken to so many who have really benefited from what they’ve learned and simply gained the confidence to try from seeing material online. However I do think it’s important to remember that the world is much wider than our social media lenses allow us to believe and to not get too caught up in comparing yourselves, or your dishes to what we see on the internet - not every meal you make will be photogenic and that more than okay.

Image credit: PIQSELS

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