I make no secret of my hatred of The Daily Bile (Mail). Lazy journalism and a propagation of racism, homophobia, and, in particular, misogyny, is the order of the day from ‘Britain’s second-best selling newspaper, after The Sun‘. The levels of misogyny are surprising, in particular, from a paper that was first aimed at women.
However, their misogynistic misgivings aside, I read an article today that really ranckled my food-loving sensibilities. (I don’t know why I read this guff. It’s like a car crash that you just can’t tear your eyes away from. In my defence, I don’t pay for this rubbish, I merely read it for free online and then rant afterwards. It’s like a hobby.)
‘Foodstagrammers’ aren’t just annoying – they may have a psychological problem, says leading psychiatrist – screamed the headline. The ‘leading psychiatrist’ is Dr Valerie Taylor, the Head of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Toronto. If she’s interested in women’s mental health I’m not sure she should be cutting much sway with the Mail given their systematic attacks on women, their bodies, their minds, their clothes, etc., etc., etc.
Dr. Taylor, according to the Mail, is concerned that the recent ‘craze’ for people photographing their food and posting the photographs on social networking sites may actually mean that they are ‘ill‘ and may ‘hint at those with an eating disorder‘. FYI, the Mail is obsessed with eating disorders but not in a sensible, ‘this is a mental health issue’ way. More of a ‘supermodels make you anorexic’ kind of way. Just Google the articles of Mail journalist Liz Jones for further clarification on this. I suspect the Mail are touting this as bulimia for the digital age.
Dr. Taylor goes on to say, ‘I see clients for whom food has become problematic, and they struggle to go out and not have food be the key element of all social interaction: what they eat, when they ate, when they are going to eat again. The concern becomes when all they do is send pictures of food. We take pictures of things that are important to us, and for some people, the food itself becomes central and the rest -– the venue, the company, et cetera — is background.’
Ok. Maybe I’m missing something here. Is Dr. Taylor suggesting people are taking pictures of their food and posting them instead of eating the food? Who could be bothered? I’m not being glib about eating disorders here. A friend’s sister suffered very badly with anorexia nervosa. I’ve seen first hand how destructive and totally awful this illness is. However, I’m not sure I agree with what Dr. Taylor is saying, or more likely, the Mail‘s interpretation of what Dr. Taylor is saying.
Let’s look more closely at what she said here, ‘We take pictures of things that are important to us…’ Lots of people take pictures of their children, their pets, their cars, etc. and post them on social networking sites. Are we saying these people are bad parents, bad pet owners, bad drivers? Of course not. We take pictures of and publicise the things that are important to us. The things we have an interest in. We want to share what we like and what we’re good at with our friends, family and our wider social network. We want to link up with like-minded individuals. Perhaps our families couldn’t give a flying fig if we’ve just baked the perfect meringue, but you can bet your last cupcake that someone on Twitter or Facebook will be. The phrase speaks for itself…social networks. Networks are made up of those with common interests, beliefs or goals. By ‘foodstagramming’ we are merely sharing our interests with those in our chosen network. I’m a completely out-of-the-closet ‘foodstagrammer’ and I can assure you, on the whole, I eat the things I post. Exceptions to this rule are some cakes, etc. made for other people. I’m not cooking the food, taking a snap of it and then chucking it in the bin. I suspect there aren’t many who are either, and if they are, their problems clearly go beyond posting photographs of food online.
The Mail also went on to hint that the ‘foodstagramming phenomenon’ is also responsible for a rise in obesity saying, ‘A 2012 study carried out by the University of Southern California found that spending a lot of time looking at appetising food online stimulated the brain and causes people to eat too much.’ Yup folks. Food porn. Just as the Mail would have us believe that watching violent films or playing computer games makes us serial killers, they’re now taking the stance that looking at food makes us overeat. Here’s the thing Dear Mail, if someone’s programmed to be a violent, sadistic killer, watching Peppa Pig will probably send them over the edge. If someone’s programmed to overeat, they’ll overeat regardless of whether they see pictures of Krispy Kreme doughnuts online or not!
I suspect this is another ‘something from nothing’ article that the Mail is really proficient at.
Another, perhaps more interesting, point that came up in this article is how we feel about people who take photographs of their food in restaurants…’In January, Michelin-starred New York chef David Bouley banned customera [sic] who foodstagrammed in his restaurant.’ Now I’m still not completely decided on how I feel about this but on the whole I don’t really like it as a practice. Whilst on holiday recently in Paris, I actually felt pretty awkward taking a photograph of a cake I was about to eat in a busy cafe. I’m not quite there with restaurant critic Giles Coren and his take on it, “I think photographing one’s food in a restaurant is easily as rude, disrespectful and brutish as … dropping one’s trousers in the middle of the room and taking a massive dump...’, (How To Eat Out. Hodder Paperbacks, 2013), but I am very much of the opinion that if I’m out for lunch or dinner or whatever I’d prefer to give my attention to the person(s) I’m with and have a conversation rather than spend my time taking pictures of the food. I’m not really sure why, but I also think it’s a bit rude for other diners. I really can’t make up my mind on this though. What I have done in the past and will probably continue to do, is take photographs of food I’ve seen in unusual shops, markets, etc. Again in Paris, I took photographs of windows filled with patisserie that looked like works of art and baskets of the the most delicious baguettes it would make you weep. Is this different to doing it in a restaurant? I don’t know.
For now though, I’ll continue photographing my food at home and I’ll continue to Tweet and blog the results. More importantly though, I’ll continue to eat it.