Back in June, McSweeney’s ran “An Open Letter to People Who Take Pictures Of Food With Instagram.” The letter was not a supportive one. It echoed the sentiments of many an internet rant zone, where folks often complain about their friends (or “Friends”) who can’t go five minutes without tweeting what they’re eating.
Similarly, BuzzFeed’s “Why Instagram is Easily the Most Annoying App” is nothing more than slide after slide of DIY food shots with pissed-off commentary like “Thanks for making pizza look like herpes.”
“What happened to everyone complaining about how much they have to do today? Or the posting of emotionally ambiguous song lyrics?” reads the Open Letter. And later on: “. . . I really, truly, absolutely, do not care about you or your food.”
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 unbaby.me, 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).