Published in August 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
I have a new morning routine. Wake up, tap the Instagram icon on my phone to open the photo sharing app, check the number of “likes” my photos have received overnight, put the kettle on, scroll through the images people have tagged with the keyword #foodie. @Jamieoliver, 2.9m followers, has posted another bowl of pasta. #Davidlebowitz, a Paris-based food blogger, 83,800 followers, is having coffee and a croissant. Another Paris-based blogger, @hinalys, a Chinese-Cambodian amateur pastry chef with 10,100 followers, is showcasing a loaf of pull-apart brioche. @Gastroart, 148,000 followers, has posted another delicately-crafted plate of brightly-coloured food that looks like a Kandinsky painting.
Instagram users upload a picture, add a caption sprinkled with hashtags and click “share.” People see your picture and tap the screen to like it or to follow you. It is growing faster than any other social media platform. For me it is an outlet, like this column, for the food-happy part of my life that doesn’t fit into my day job as a foreign correspondent. I love to cook; I love to eat. Now I take pictures of these activities on my iPhone and send them out into the world. I am hardly alone in this. If the internet is all about cats, Instagram is all about food.
The fun thing is the sheer range of stuff out there. From the circles and swooshes of conceptual dishes from cutting-edge restaurants such as Noma and Mugaritz, to snaps of restaurant plates from blogging reviewers, to greasy lumps of someone in Oregon’s half-eaten dinner, to a plethora of lifestyle memes to suit any taste—southern barbecue, deep-fried, healthy-slim, green-vegan, paleo, Parisian patisserie. Search #breakfast, for example, and you can go around the world from congee to bacon-and-eggs-and-pancakes to more images than you could possibly imagine of patterns drawn in cappuccino foam.