Why Are We So Obsessed With Taking Pics Of Our Food?

What is with the phenomenon of taking pictures of our food?


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A post shared by Jade Hayden (@platesbyjh)

I’m out for dinner with a couple of friends. As a heaped plate of sweet potato fries and its varying accompaniments makes its way to our table, we thank the waitress as she places them on the table and all immediately reach for our phones, eyes locked and hungry on the plates in front of us.

There’s silence for 10 seconds as we snap the creamy mac ‘n’ cheese and corn on the cob before grabbing our knives and forks and finally digging in. I kept an eye on my friend’s social media later that evening to see if the food they artfully snapped earlier appeared online, but they didn’t, and similarly, I do nothing with my own snaps.

If I scroll through my camera roll I see a collection of similar food-related images from the last couple of months, and even years. They’re not particularly good quality, the lighting is dull in most of them, in some, you can see my fluffy socks peeping from the bottom of my plate as I snap a my pasta dish standing in the kitchen, they never see the light of day, so why do I still have the urge to do it? 

The phenomenon of course, came about with the birth of Instagram, as before influencers and reels dominated the app, food pics covered our feeds. As the Instagram generation, this clearly stuck, even if we’re no longer posting them with the Valencia filter online.


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A post shared by Jade Hayden (@platesbyjh)

All of this means it’s an inherently millennial thing, I rarely see older generations clamber for their phones when their chocolate cake is coming toward them in a restaurant, and Gen Z probably has the ick just thinking about it. The act could may well be muscle memory for us at this point, or there could be a deeper psychological meaning behind it, as some research has suggested.

Studies from the Journal of Consumer Marketing discovered that taking pictures of food can sometimes make it taste better. Taking a moment to capture the dish you’re about to eat gives you a chance to interact with your food longer than you would if you were to dig in right away.

You get to see the colours and textures on the plate, smell the flavours, and take a moment to delay the gratification of eating it. There’s science to back up that claim too, as a series of experiments published in Psychological Science found that people who perform brief rituals before eating reported that they enjoyed the food more than consuming it immediately. 

Most rituals around food involve a religious aspect, a way of saying thanks to those above for the nutrition they have blessed us with. For many people, saying grace isn’t a cultural norm, and so younger generations have adapted their own gratitude practice, by taking a picture of their food.

Looking at a group of young women snap away at their food with their mobile phones may look like they’re living through the rectangle screen in their hands, but actually, they’re attempting to experience living in the moment even more… even if it never ends up on Insta!

This article originally appeared in the December 2023 issue of STELLAR magazine.