I’m not sure when it happened, but it did. There was a moment where everything changed, and we went from posting photos of ourselves at sweaty college parties to posting photos of our avocado toast next to our white coffee mug on top of the Saturday Wall Street Journal. And when we flipped that switch — the switch that presumably made it acceptable to take harshly lit photos our our homemade dinners — we somehow all became even more self-indulgent than we were before.
I may be thinking idealistically here, but when Facebook first initiated photo sharing, it seemed to be filled with experiences. Parties, vacations, Friendsgivings, whatever. I don’t remember seeing albums of gourmet grilled cheeses and acai bowls on picnic tables. But somewhere along the line, we took this too far and decided that it was acceptable to post one of our most basic physiological needs: our food. On the surface, this is on par with posting a photo of the air we breath, the bed we sleep in, or the water we drink.
Sure, I get it, you’re proud of the new recipe you found on the clean living blog that you’ve been frequenting for the past few months. That buffalo chicken dip recipe you found on Pinterest is probably insanely tasty, but at the end of the day, it’s still just cheese, shredded chicken, and hot sauce baked at 350 degrees before getting demolished at your Super Bowl party. And yes, the photo of your goji berry smoothie with morning light pouring on it is aesthetically pleasing, but what are you getting out of it besides 32 likes and a comment from someone you met once that simply says, “yum!”?
Every self-serving photo of a cheeseburger or plate of oysters diminishes the meaning of photos that actually encompass life experiences that we should care about. Those engagement photos I hate? I don’t hate them because they don’t hold any meaning — they do. I hate them because there’s a complete lack of creativity when it comes to actually taking them. For every basic hay bale and row boat photo that gets shared, a photo of an egg-covered cheeseburger or farm-fresh street tacos gets justified.
When my grandmother finished a batch of her cookies, I’m assuming that her intention was to fill the stomachs of my mom and her four siblings, not to gain the admiration of every acquaintance she casually came across at a cocktail party. The home videos we watch at every family gathering aren’t of the tables filled with honey baked hams and homemade mashed potatoes. They’re filled with ski trips, Easter egg hunts, and birthday parties where people are more focused on smiling for the camera than they are on the artisanal cupcakes they got from the bohemian bakery down the street.
When it’s all said and done, we aren’t posting these photos because they encompass an important moment in time that’s to be cherished by the next generation. We’re posting them to feel a brief moment of coddling and nourishment that we get from the likes we receive. Hopefully, our grandchildren scour back in our internet history — or whatever exists then — and have the self-awareness to wonder who the hell was sitting at the dinner table around that photo of heirloom tomato panzanella that we all thought was prettier and more important than the company we were keeping.
But what do I know? I’m just the asshole who got 55 likes on the photo I posted of a crawfish boil six weeks ago. .
Image via Shutterstock