A Curiosity: Our Fascination With Food Photos and Sharing Them On Social Media

Woman photographing sushi Photo by  j  on  Unsplash

Woman photographing sushi Photo by j on Unsplash

This post follows on the heels of the interview with Brand Photographer Julia Mae Hunt during a podcast of #thedeliciousstory. We tackled many interesting topics, including the power and meaning of the photo-journaling that we are all able to do with the use of the readily available phone.

As someone who has focused on helping people curate and craft their personal histories for more than a decade, I ponder the differences of a well-documented past captured in all these moments of daily life, as opposed to a history written from reminiscing and deep reflection. What are the values of each?  

Of course, another part of photo-journaling, which seems to go hand-in-hand for many of us, is the component of sharing it to social media. And of all the curated content we post, food ranks high as a subject we like to share the most. I commented to Julia about my curiosity; why do we share so many images of food, specifically. What IS that all about? We didn’t come up with an answer, so I thought I’d do a bit of research.  


Before I dug into food photos, I wondered what is generally going on with us and our need to post daily moments in our lives on social media in the first place. Should we be feeling odd or bad about all that minutia that we are posting to the world? These days especially when many of us may all have second thoughts given the news—the lack of oversight by the tech companies, and the impact on our culture and political process.

And haven’t we all experienced some impact of disengagement personally when people spend more time focused on recording and sharing than being present in an event? It seems obvious we like to report our lives, especially those parts that display us at our best. When the moments are particularly celebratory, it is a pleasure to capture images and broadcast our good fortune.

Perhaps we like to brag. Maybe we even seek approval or affirmation in the form of likes. In the article over at Odyssey, “The Urge to Share: Why We Post On Social Media,” Jessica Jordano suggests we do this posting to seek approval, some sort of confirmation that “who we are and what we are doing are acceptable.” Certainly, the case can be made that we seek to please our ego by providing information in exchange for likes and comments, i. e. attention.


As humans, we are natural storytellers. We seek to create, and we must have connection to survive. Early on, man painted murals on the walls of caves documenting their daily lives. As in how they worked and lived, which included the preparation and consumption of food. Much of the art of the past centuries features food and meal scenes on display, from Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo to modern art’s Van Gogh and his recording of poverty stricken meal scenes and Monet, with his stunning still lives with fruit.

In the article, “Snap, share, eat: The decidedly human reasons we’re obsessed with amateur food photography,” author Bryan Clark reports that humans are driven to archive and share history. Food comprises a large portion of our existence, hence we report it. The consumption of food is also relatable. We don’t usually eat in isolation so when we share our meal digitally; rich or poor, Master’s degree or High school diploma, we are seeking to connect with a common experience.

Our attachment to food is primal, we must have nourishment. But it also represents comfort. Images elicit a visceral experience of tastes and smells we can easily recall, even if the meal we see isn’t our own. In the NY Times article, “First Camera, Then Fork,” by Kate Murphy, she quotes psychiatrist Kathryn Zerbe who specializes in eating disorders as saying: “In the unconscious mind, food equals love because food is our deepest and earliest connection with our caretaker.” We want to capture and brag and show off our food.


We can go overboard and even become compulsive in our effort to share and seek approval. But I think there is more than narcissism at work in the pictures we capture and push into our social world. And those photos of food may be evidence of these other tendencies – connections, storytelling and the like.

Certainly, I know many examples of people reporting deeper thoughts and events from life in their corner of the web that are reflections and authentic. But I think a nod to fashioning our images and thoughts as a personal magazine of our life, is creativity at work.  Hopefully, with time we will pause from all the capturing and reporting, to review all that content; to reflect as well, and then tell ourselves and those closest to us, that person-to-person what it all really means.

Alexandra and Sherry, 2016

Alexandra and Sherry, 2016

Sherry is the founder of Storied Gifts a personal publishing service of family and company histories. She and her team help clients curate and craft their stories into books. When not writing or interviewing, Sherry spends loads of time with her grandchildren and lives in Des Moines, Iowa.


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