I was that girl. The one with the annoying foodie Instagram account.
What can I say though, food-loving of some sort has been in my life goals since “$40 a Day” with Rachel Ray. When food became the internet’s best friend, particularly “real” food on social media, of course, I jumped on board. It was the first time since Food Network that foodies felt they had a chance to make careers without actually becoming chefs. (I pursued that path a few times, but I couldn’t take the heat, so I got out of the kitchen, or at least out of the restaurant industry.) However, I was still just a culinary nerd, and Instagram gave me a chance to be the popular girl, so dang it, I would give it a shot.
I loved Instagramming my food for the most part. It was fun and allowed me to be creative, but sometimes, it was too much. There were moments when I was more excited to post a picture on Insta than I was about actually eating the food. No, social media isn’t all bad. Giving businesses a new market, health advocates a space to educate, and culinary connoisseurs a chance to create an online portfolio are all opportunities that should be taken advantage of, but the quintessential Instagram is one that displays a sense of perfection which is also a characteristic of an eating disorder. In fact, Instagram has taken a stance against eating disorders, because the company is aware that its domain is used to encourage that kind of behavior. (Why would we ever want to call our food “clean,” when it could just be called delicious and nutritious?)
I thought deactivating my social media accounts would free me of the mindless scroll and feeling the need to display perfection, because, yes, a whopping 21 “likes” gave me gratification. And giving it up did do those things to an extent. However, after I deactivated all of my social media accounts, and I eventually gave up eating right.
I lost authority. Ironically, I was making good grades in my micronutrients class, but I didn’t care to apply it in real life. When I had social media, sharing food photos was also sharing my nutrition knowledge. It gave me confidence, which is a big part of how social media is set up. You can quantify your influence by the number of likes and followers you have, so when I lost all of that “power,” I didn’t feel the need to talk about food with anyone, including myself.
I lost an audience. As soon as I realized that people weren’t going to see what I ate or how my body looked, I started slipping more in my diet, which isn’t a bad thing, but those slips became absolute miserable fails. At first, I felt guilty about overindulging constantly, and then I stopped caring about it at all. Social media is like a support group, because you tell your followers what you eat, and it keeps you accountable. Now, I’m still trying to figure out how keep myself accountable without my followers.
Most importantly, I became a mindless eater, something I had previously worked hard to quit. Taking photos of food has similar qualities to mindful eating: You pause to look at your food to take a picture, you think about how good it is going to taste, and you become excited about eating it, research says so.
Do I regret letting go of social media?
Absolutely not. I just found out that I’m not a perfect foodie when no one is looking, and I had to learn to accept it. If you are interested in going on a digital hiatus, you may want to consider how it will affect your eating habits, because it could be the best thing you do for your health or you may face a small battle to learn to eat right again. Either way, take the risk, because you’ll learn something about yourself or your relationship with food.