By: bitesize :)
If you were invited to lunch at a restaurant you’ve never been to before, what would be the first thing you do? My answer echoes almost every Gen Z-er and young millennial out there--we put full faith in our fellow yelp reviewers - heroes who have bravely gone through the "what should I order" dilemma, leaving great recommendations that rarely disappoint. A friend recounted this exact experience-- after being invited to a work lunch at a new restaurant, she instinctively went on Yelp to find dishes that spoke to her. As she scrolled through photos of the food and menu, she felt a nudge from her coworker. “Is that Yelp? Is that what people do nowadays?”
It is not surprising that for many of us, Yelp has long secured its place on our list of most-used apps. We use this heaven-sent invitation to scour countless restaurants - scrolling through the online menu, looking at pictures of the interior and exterior (for the aesthetics, of course!), and most importantly, drooling over pictures of the food itself. This is when our inner critics come out -- dishes that look enticing are quickly deemed “instagrammable”, and restaurants with a fun interior and aesthetic win extra points. Only then can we decide on the perfect place for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
Food has dramatically revolutionized our generation-- we can talk about food all day, every day, and on the rare occasions when we are not, we are definitely thinking about it. Sometimes, certain cuisines and dishes can even be the primary reason for travel -- we would gladly go to the lengths of planning a whole vacation just to get a taste of that world-famous dish. What instigated this change? In some ways, nothing drastic! It is simply a shift in the way social media shapes the way we interact around food.
Food is still universal-- it brings people together. It’s one of the few topics that people who have nothing in
common can talk about, and with passion! The food you eat reveals things about you-- your upbringing, your way of life, what you enjoy and don’t enjoy. But now, in the digital age (post-iPhone age), it’s easier than ever to share and connect with your fellow foodie fanatics. Eve Turow-Paul, author of “Hungry”, thinks social media is the culprit. Instagram has since become the number one platform for “foodies” and their food Instagrams. Deemed as the “foodie generation”, Gen Zs and millennials are a whopping 51% of the world’s population and are known for documenting their daily food adventures on social media. Remember when people first started taking pictures of food before they ate? Some people thought it was odd, but it has since become second nature-- we want to document our lives, and we choose to do so by sharing the food we eat! Turow-Paul reports that around ⅔ of 13 to 32-year-olds in the U.S. have posted at least one picture of food on social media, and around 60% of people in China constantly post pictures of food.
Why do people post pictures of food? According to Turow-Paul, it’s because we’re all a little lonely (and that is totally okay!). Her study found that 46% of Americans either sometimes or always feel lonely, and 50% feel like they do not have meaningful social interactions. Contrary to its name, social media does not always make us social. In fact, the study reports that the more time we spend on social media, the more we feel anxious, isolated, and dissatisfied with our lives. One reason for the spike of food posts on Instagram is that social media greatly influences how much we enjoy our hobbies -- Turow-Paul found that 40% of young millennials enjoy cooking but only feel good about their dishes when others compliment it online.
‘What are we truly hungry for?’
Turow-Paul says we’re hungry for human connection. She opens the discussion further and points out how social media apps advertise connection with friends and family, and that posting on such platforms will help deepen these relationships. While this is true, there is a more common downside to social media -- we are unable to deepen friendships if we focus only on screen-based interactions. Turow-Paul puts the problem nicely: “The marketing of social media sites makes us think that by sharing an image of our bubble tea, lakeside picnic, or cookie dough, we are opening ourselves up to more friendships than ever before. But by focusing our attention on screen-based interactions, we’re prioritizing acquaintance over close friends, the ones who will have your back when you’re in need, come water your plants when you’re out of town, or listen as you grieve.” We should reflect on the difference between sharing versus connecting, and whether the interactions we are having daily are deepening our relationships with our friends and family.
So what does this mean for us in bitesize? Reading this book really prompted us to ask the question: Are we hungry for human connection? Maybe we are a little lonely. To a certain extent, we would say that posting pictures of food, recipe sharing, and writing food stories are all ways to create a sense of community. A hungry community. We would even add that as digital natives, we are all programmed to document moments online as a personal record of sorts - “for the mems”. We’re sure that back in the day, compiling handwritten recipes in notebooks was THE trend... And I guess foodstagrams are our modern version of grandma’s cookbook.
With that being said, we should grow to be more aware of what we hunger for in addition to physical hunger: human connection and community! It’s important to take things offline from time to time and enjoy life as it is. This can look like anything, from having a conversation IRL with a friend (with safety precautions, of course!), to take the time to feel a sense of accomplishment that comes with preparing a delicious meal all on your own. Whatever it may be, don’t forget to pause and be present. To post or not to post, the choice is all yours.