“WAIT!” I yelled as everyone started to dive into their entrees. “Don’t eat yet!”
We were at the kind of fancy restaurant where the food isn’t just served, it is strategically arranged on the plate and displayed like a work of art.
My husband stopped with his fork in mid-air and stared at me.
“Why?” he asked. “Is there something wrong with the food?”
My daughter rolled her eyes. “No. Mom just has to take a picture of it so she can post it on Instagram.”
It was true. I had become one of those people who couldn’t just live my life. I had to document it and post it online so other people could like it, share it, and comment on it.
“It just looks so pretty,” I said sheepishly. “I want to show other people how yummy it looks!”
My husband and daughter shook their heads. They both realized they had lost their mother to a mistress named Social Media.
I wasn’t sure at what point I went from someone who just ate food to someone who needed to ascertain the share value of a dish and whether or not it was Pinterestable or better suited for Instagram. And should I also share it on Twitter and Facebook? And more importantly, does anyone else really care about what I’m eating?
The answer to that last question was the easiest. Yes. Yes, they do. With the right lighting, I could get 50 likes on a chocolate lava cake. That must mean I’m either really popular, or all my followers are sugar fiends like me.
The problem with this, of course, is that for those few seconds while I’m positioning the plate and shooting the picture, I choose to put my real life on hold while I enable my virtual life. The real people I’m having dinner with have to wait while I share my dinner with my online family. Dinner is no longer a party of four. It is a party of 400, or more, if I’m lucky.
So why do it? At some point it seemed it wasn’t enough to just enjoy my meal with my family. I needed the validation of people I’d never met in real life to tell me the food looked really good. They couldn’t taste it or smell it. But if they liked my picture, it must mean something. But what? Did it make me a better, smarter, or prettier person because people liked the pictures I posted of my food? I certainly felt that way.
Posting pics of food with recipe links makes sense because you are sharing information that’s useful for the reader. But just posting a pic of your dinner plate is kind of like going to a party with an expensive designer handbag. You do it to show off… to make people jealous and want to be you. There is nothing in it that benefits them. It is all about building yourself up while taking them down.
After my daughter called me out, I realized that I could live without the virtual ego stroking. I preferred to eat my food and be present with the people at the table, not the people on the Internet. I love Instagram and Pinterest, but decided that I would save my posts for those times when it does not conflict with my real life relationships.
Unless, of course, it makes a really, really good picture.
Posted on 10/15/2013
Tracy Beckerman is a syndicated columnist and the author of the new book, “Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir. How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs.” Come share your story about being lost in motherhood at her blog, Lost in Suburbia Stories.