16 September 2014

Selfies, Food Porn, and Social Validation

One day last summer, I was invited to join a bunch of Berlin folks to an event in a local restaurant. There was a new restaurant that opened, and so as part of a social network centered around restaurants, services, and other providers, I was invited to this event. It was an event sponsored by the restaurant, which recently opened within the year. So about twenty or so people were gathered in this restaurant to sample and try the offerings of this restaurant. While overall, I liked the experience, there were actions of my fellow guests that sort of raised a question in my head. And it has something to do with selfies, as well as taking photos of food.

See, there were a few people in the room who seemed to not be able to eat anything unless they take a photo of the food they are eating beforehand. We were served food, and instead of grabbing the chopsticks so that we can all eat, they grabbed their cameras and smartphones instead. Hence, everyone had to wait until everyone else who wanted to take a photo of the unadulterated food had their shot. Only when everyone who wanted a photo finally took a photo were we all allowed to dig in and eat.

Oh, it doesn't end there. Some of them even went to Facebook or Instagram and immediately uploaded their photos. So this behavior lead to a discussion between me and another guest, and both of us remarked that we don't really understand why some people do this. Some people even do this in museums. They go see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, when they find it, they fish out their iPads or cameras, take a very crappy photo of it, and then move on and find the next object to be photographed.

So the question is, did they really enjoy the Mona Lisa? Did they really enjoy the food? Or did they visit the Louvre only to be able to say that they found and photographed the Mona Lisa? Did they go to the restaurant only to be able to say that they had some food to be photographed?

This made me think of the current trends in social media today. Given the tons of available social network venues for us, it seems that people are not living for themselves, but for the social media. People take photos and post it online, without perhaps fully admiring the Mona Lisa. Instead, satisfaction comes from the fact that they were able to get the chance to take a photograph of the Mona Lisa, not because they actually saw and admired the Mona Lisa. The same goes to food I think.

As I mentioned in the recent past, I am not in Facebook anymore. I caught myself doing the same thing in the past. I had this phase a few months ago where we would cook something really tasty at home, and then I would post a photo of it in Facebook. I later realized that I would prefer privatizing my life a little bit, and therefore I don't do that anymore. Why not enjoy the setting and keep it for yourself? The experience doesn't become less real if you didn't take a photo of it. If you were in the Louvre, you were in the Louvre. Admire the Mona Lisa, and please stop taking a selfie in front of it.

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