Boston Globe’s Devra First recently published an article titled, “Instagram is ruining food, and I might be the only one who cares”. And while I first thought that she was totally right, I’m now having seconds thoughts about it. As a food blogger and social media creative strategist, I have to agree that the lighting, the walls, and the table (among other things) really matter when taking a picture at a restaurant or at home. I have a creative eye and a strategy behind most of my personal posts, so chances are I’m not going to publish a food photo if it doesn’t fit. But I still don’t think that my posts (or the app as a whole) are ruining food. Let’s face it – big companies like Starbucks will always get behind a trend, not matter what it is. The unicorn frappuccino (or whatever that was) was created purely for Instagram-related purposes; we all know that. And just like First, I didn’t dare waste $5 on something I had heard tasted like hell. Which brings me to my first point.
- Word of mouth is still important.
Your friends, family members, and (hopefully) your favorite bloggers will tell you the truth about a food item/restaurant. When my co-workers told me that the rainbow/unicorn frapp from Starbucks tasted like blended Starbursts, I immediately knew it wasn’t for me. I didn’t care if I was “out”; I’d rather spend that money/Instagram post on something I truly enjoy, like a pistachio macaron. Which, you guessed it, brings me to my second point.
- Instagram has actually pushed people to try new things.
I’ve been in love with pistachio macarons ever since I can remember. Around when I was 13, my parents took me to Paris for the first time. It was there that I tried my first macaron. They are crunchy yet soft and have an extraordinary flavor – (when done right, of course). They also happen to be adorable and really great to photograph, which is why their popularity on Instagram has grown. But is that a bad thing? Not in my eyes! I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve tried a macaron for the first time simply because they saw it on Instagram. They went out of their comfort zone and tried something from a different country…now how cool is that?
- Instagram can expand your cultural knowledge.
Be honest: did you know what bubble tea, shakshuka, or bibimbab was a few years ago? Maybe not, but likely you do now, simply because a user (or various) posted a photo of it. I believe that this increase in cultural knowledge will help to decrease frequency of stereotypes and discrimination. (And let’s face it, most cultures revolve around food anyways.)
- People have always liked pretty things.
Instagram didn’t create the “pretty culture.” We’ve always liked pretty things; that’s why we buy paintings, home decor, shoes, clothes… I can keep on going. Magazines have thrived on photos of pretty things for quite some time. But does anyone say that they ruined food back when they were more popular?
- What about the Food Network?
As an avid viewer of the Food Network, I can tell you that chefs have been preoccupied with the presentation on their plates since the beginning of time. Instagram or not, chefs, home cooks, and even moms and dads want their food to look appealing. First even said in her article: people eat with their eyes first. Name one Michelin-star restaurant that didn’t focus on presentation before Instagram was a thing. You won’t find one.
So bright and beautiful. Oyster, Summer Squash, and Bronze Fennel at Sixteen, Chicago. – Photo Credit: @sixteenchicago – . . . . #sixteen #chicago #chifood #squash #summer #summer17 #oyster #michelinrestaurants #tasty #cuisine #food #foodphotography #foodie #foodies #foodiegram #finedining #yum #instafood #foodpics #tasting #dish #plating #art #hungry #michelinstar #michelinstars
- Instagram helps small businesses
This is probably the most important point, and probably the main reason why I disagree with First. She states, “[Instagram] is part of the entire eating experience — another layer into which chefs and restaurateurs need to put through. And money. Which means, in a business where the right level of investment can be the difference between success and failure, just another card in the deck stacked against those with fewer resources who want to get into the game.” You see, I think it’s the exact opposite. Instagram is free and organic. If a few “marble” tables and succulents carefully utilized in a photo will get people to come visit your small little café, then so be it. Those with fewer resources can (and do) benefit from Instagram and users’ obsession with taking pictures of food. Instagram enables small business owners to place budget in ingredients rather than marketing…making the food, in fact, that much yummier.
(Example of a family-owned restaurant benefiting from an organic Instagram post.)
What are your thoughts on the article? Do you agree? Is Instagram really ruining food?