While some are dedicated to expansive personal blogs, most of us that blog are “microbloggers,” whose web presence is built mainly around short, frequent posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. A startling number of these microblogs are about nothing deeper than what we ate for dinner. Professionals will tell you that unless you’re a chef, this is a bad way to blog. But is it?
When a Facebook analyst wrote a short article on how Facebook makes “foodie-ism” accessible to a broader audience and enlarges and connects food-sharing spaces, the article was liked by more than 3300 people. Conversely, the page for IDCWYHFD, Inc., which is dedicated to never posting the details on dinner and resenting those who do, has a meager 37 fans. For every person who complains (usually off-Book) about dinner posts, there are ten times as many, well, dinner posts. So why do we love sharing our food on the web?
While “Manicotti with Basil” might not seem like a very creative or worthwhile entry into your personal cache, it sure beats “I’m eschewing meat and using fresh herbs because I’m a good, eco-conscious person” and it’s way better than “I live alone.” Because by describing what you ate (or what you want us to think you ate) you might also be telling us about your mood, your pocketbook, your family size, your lifestyle, your ethnocultural background, or even your values. In other words, even the most shallow dinner microblog can serve as a sort of digital mood ring. Dinner can translate into who you are or who you want us to think you are – one more image projection that we all recognize on an instant and subconscious level.
Not only foodies are blogging dinner and, what’s more, a great number of posts don’t even have a food-love focus. Rather than glowing and articulate reviews with stunning high-res photos, many microblogs primarily function to convey mood or reflect lifestyle. It’s easy to imagine how one might express romance, loneliness, or boredom in terms of a meal. It feels less vulnerable and it can be more telling in its very vagueness. Think of a description of not just your but your five friends’ meals as a profile photo that features you at the center of a rowdy party. Consider a quick note about a pack of Top Ramen as a “busy, broke, and alone right now” status update.
So what does our food tell us? Something pretty different than the trends food experts are describing. The news might predict that Americans will tend more and more toward locavorism and fresh veggies (especially organics and heirlooms) and even canning will see a comeback, but the un-local monolith that is Starbucks boasts 13,274,683 fans. Next in line for most popular food-related groups are Coke, Oreo, and Skittles. It’s easy to learn from our dinners that we like comfort food and, perhaps most importantly, we like what others “Like” in more ways than one. Because we’re not waxing poetic on the joy of cooking, we’re saying “like this dish and like me.” Or at least “identify me in this dish and give me what I need!” Be it support, kudos, or merely a dinner guest.
Not convinced? Google “Facebook eating” and wonder at how many pundits and writers choose this juicy verb to capture Facebook’s market (and cultural) prominence.
CC image courtesy of Martim Gommel on flickr