Food for Thought: Why People Instagram Their Meals

  • SumoMe

I’m already drooling.

Social media has made it possible to let everyone know what their friends and relatives are doing, reading and listening to. But it’s also had some strange consequences, including everyone seeing Instagram photos of what the people they know are eating.

No one knows how this trend started, but everyone seems to have strong feelings about it, as this open letter to Instagram users shows. However, it might be worth thinking about why the trend started. Why do people take pictures of their food and post them? Better yet, why do they think anyone wants to see them? No one knows for sure, but today’s culture may provide some clues.


Our Obsession with Food

You don’t have to know much to know that Americans love food. There are at least four food channels on TV. Chefs become celebrities overnight. Then there’s what many people see in the mirror. Instagram food photos are simply an extension of this food obsession.

Many people like to take photos of a good meal or pretty food presentation, either for themselves or their foodie friends. However, some photos have an additional function. Many people find that keeping a food journal helps them lose weight, and a visual diary is more effective than a written one. In a society ruled by food and social media, sharing photos of food is a logical next step.

A Permanent Record

Photos are a way to remember important milestones in our lives, from that week in Paris to a friend’s wedding. Every now and then, a meal can make that same impression, and a photo says much more than a written description ever could.

Some people want to remember that fantastic filet mignon from their anniversary dinner, while others love to photograph the wedding cake before the bride and groom but it. Still others like to take photos of the meals they prepare from scratch, especially the ones they’re trying out for the first time. In these instances, the photo isn’t about remembering the meal; it’s about remembering the circumstances surrounding the meal.


Even the least artistic people like to express themselves.  Shots like that are hard to capture, but a perfectly still food photo is much easier.

Not everyone is trying to take that classic photo, though; some people share their photos just to share. Have you ever talked to a friend about something that happened at work or home? It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was a way to make conversation. A photo of that jumbo-size hamburger you ate for lunch is another way to share the day’s events with your friends and family.

Some people know why they photograph their food, and the reasons are varied and many. I suspect that most people photograph their meals for the same reason they watch a TV show or read a magazine – because it’s there.

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Shane Jones is a Senior Social Outreach Specialist with management roots in online PR. A strong proponent for the power of personal, "humanized," digital collaboration, Shane shares his opinions and knowledge on Social Outreach and Digital Marketing. Additionally he blogs about his life's adventures, as he continues to "Empty his Bucket." He's always on the lookout for more bucket list ideas. Follow me on Twitter @ShaneJones15, Google +, and LinkedIn.