Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Let me start with a confession. I don't understand Twitter and Obie and Facebook and

all the other social media where the apparent goal is to never let a moment of ones life go

unobserved. I say this with the knowledge my oldest brother who is into his sexy sixties,

recently started a Facebook page and Twitter account. I'm not a Luddite. I love gadgets,

smart phones, texting, and I particularly love P.C.'s. However, this new trend eludes me. I may

be opening myself to the charge of being a hypocrite, considering I spent a good portion of my

adult working life sharing my personal life with strangers. Five nights a week and on Sundays

I'd open up, telling everything from the birth of my children to a frightening day at IKEA.

However, in spite of my talkative past, possibly our culture has gone a bit too far. When some

future Gibbons writes his version of the Rise and Fall of the American Empire, this could be

cited as the straw that broke the camel's back.

The New York Times Dining Section for April 7th featured a front page story about

people posting pictures of every morsel of food they eat for all the world to see on the internet.

The article chronicles the likes of Javier Garcia, a neuroscientist at UC Irvine, who posted over

9,000 photos of every single thing he's eaten in the last five years. Mr. Garcia says posting

a picture of every single thing he eats helps him stay on his diet and not gain weight. Food

pictures on the internet have increased ten-fold in the last two years. Over six million have

been posted on the Flickr site called "I Ate This", its most active photo sharing group. Because

of over 300,000 pictures posted by more than 19,000 people, Flickr actually has to limit the

number of photos an individual can post per month.

The pictures range from cereal to suckling pig to arugula-feta salads. People quoted in

the article say they get more comments on their food pictures than on anything else they post

online. One woman met her future husband through her food postings. Others say food

photos help them connect to others in a unique way.

Psychiatrists say the unconscious mind equates food with love; so they're not surprised

people want to share what they eat. What they didn't comment on, and which mystifies me

completely, is why anyone would want to view an image of what I just ate.

I admit I am not an adventurous eater. Heaven to me is a Philly Cheesesteak from the

Cheesesteak Shop on Divisadero. Paradise is a steak and hash brown breakfast at Louie's

near the Cliffhouse accompanied by old-fashioned sourdough toast or corned beef hash from

the Tennessee Grill on Taravel. A burger from the Bullshead in West Portal or Bill's on

Clement can be a moment of ecstasy. When my wife makes her chili or Irish bread or

homemade chocolate chip cookies, it is as if time has stopped and I am thrilled. However,

at no time has it ever crossed my mind that there was another living person who's wish was

to observe all of these repasts as I was consuming them.

It gets worse! Camera manufacturers like SONY, Nikon, Olympus, and Fuji are now

marketing special "food" or "cuisine" modes for their cameras which range in price from

$200-$600. I'm not kidding. People will spend $600 to get a special lens to take pictures

of the food they are eating in order to post them on the internet for others to see. Have

Americans have officially jumped the shark?

One of the common themes running through the article is how these photos connect to

others. Showing people what you eat somehow reveals a great deal about the kind of person

you are. Perhaps this is the ultimate revelation. While everyone is on Twitter and Facebook,

MySpace and Shutterfly, Chowhound and Foodcandy, shouldn't they be out with friends

enjoying each other's company and sharing the experience of a good meal? Why is it we don't

sit out on the front porch anymore? Most of us don't know our neighbors and don't want

to know them. Since our social interactions are less frequent, are we seeking new ways to

connect? Are we so desperate to be heard, touched, and desired that we have to advertise

what we eat?

I won't be posting any pictures of a Triscuit covered in winecheese topped with a slice of

dry salami any time soon. While it's one of my favorite snacks, I haven't got a clue what it

says about me nor why anyone else would care. I will continue to write and call friends and

family. I will continue to connect and share with everyone, friends and foe alike. More than

ever I am so grateful for an amazing family and friends. However, tonight's meal of baked

ziti in a supposed tomato sauce will not be on any photo sight near you. It's your loss?

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

1 comment:

  1. What's sadder -- the people who spend all their time posting that Twitter twaddle or the fools who follow those twits? I deleted all my friends on FB because it seemed invasive, whether my friends realized it or not, to read every detail of their personal lives.