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A Digital Buffet

The Instagram backlash is upon us


Instagram is easy to hate because, beyond enabling TMI, it encourages users to jazz up their posts with ready-made vintage photo filters. And apparently, there’s nothing more annoying than a hipster purporting to be a smartphone artiste.

What kind of person genuinely doesn’t like looking at food? Is oozy pizza really that hard on your eyeballs?

I’d like to qualify this cultural frustration. It is fair, I think, to rage at the general braggy oversharing that currently embodies Facebook, etc. The new app, which prevents excessive photos of your friends’ offspring from polluting your news feed, is popular for a reason. Diapers = not cool.

Another good rule of thumb is that if a post begins with the word “officially” — and many do, these days — it is going to be annoying.

Officially got into Yale, twice! Officially signed up for the Sahara marathon!

Well whoop dee doo; I officially just spent another whole day in my pajamas. I don’t care how many people “like” your status. They all secretly resent you, and for good reason.

But I think the hate directed at amateur food photographers is misguided. What kind of person genuinely doesn’t like looking at food? Is oozy pizza really that hard on your eyeballs? And what is Instagram meant for, if not documenting and celebrating the mundane stuff we do every day—if not showing the ordinary sandwich in an extraordinary sepia light? At least nobody ever “officially” makes a panini.

It must all be a big misunderstanding. Food Instagramers are not necessarily claiming that they’re better than you, or more artistic than you, or that their snacks are works of perfection. Here is a quick guide for interpreting what your friends are saying when they post their food or drinks on the internet.

We’ll start with the first example in the McSweeney’s piece: “Avocado and lime marinated partridge medallions with coconut milk and ginger quinoa, slow baked paprika kale chips and hand cranked, blueberry crumble pie ice cream. YUM!”

I have free time and dysfunctional taste buds.

Yellowtail tartare at Morimoto!

Putting this one on Dad’s AmEx.

Tofu burgers with vegan cheese and leafy greens!

It’s been a while since I shaved.

Potatoes with dill aioli!

I read Saveur.

Potatoes with mayonnaise!

I might not read but must be pretty intelligent because I correctly spelled mayonnaise.

Double sundae with chocolate sauce, pecans, and a cherry on top!

If fat: I am about to enjoy some dessert.

If thin: I’m not going anywhere near this, let’s be honest, but am trying very hard not to look like a loser who only eats salad.

“Bit of the bubbly for a special occasion!”

Nobody has asked me about my promotion yet.

“Wine coolers wit mah ladiezz <3 <3 <3”

I have a prominent lower back tattoo.

I wish people weren’t so judgey about sharing food on the internet. I, for one, love ogling what other people are eating, whether in person or on a tiny screen. A few weeks ago, I found myself hesitating as I went to tweet a photo of my own. I was at an international food festival and had just waited in line for half an hour for 3 pounds of Croatian lamb. I had to tell somebody about it!

But I held back. I didn’t want people to get the wrong impression. Because all I was trying to say was, damn, I am seriously, but unofficially, pumped about this giant, ugly chunk of meat.

Individual photos by Raam Dev via Flickr (Creative Commons); Panduh via Flickr (Creative Commons); snowpea&bokchoivia Flickr (Creative Commons); SeRVe Photography via Flickr (Creative Commons); Arcane_Magazine via Flickr (Creative Commons); Romana Correale via Flickr (Creative Commons); Carwyn Lloyd Jones – Dylunio Creadigol via Flickr (Creative Commons); Joyosity via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Mara Miller is a writer and editor who lives in Fairmount. She studied Classics at Haverford College. Cursed with a parent with mad cooking skills, Mara spent the first 18 years of her life being fed delicious cuisine and the next several subsisting on dining hall mystery meat and granola bars. Then she got a kitchen. Her Kitchen Hacks column is for the aspiring mediocre chef in all of us. Follow her on Twitter: @maralmiller.


  1. Bwahahaha, what a great article! I use Instagram often, and find that most of my photos are food. ..

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