“FAME is FAKE
and it FADEs
and if you don’t know that,
then you’re F_ _Ked”.
Lol, sorry to use abrasive language, but that’s the quote I heard long ago that cemented to me what “fame” really is. It’s stuck with me all these years and it’s true. Fame is a mental state; doesn’t last long, and isn’t actually real. It’s a perceived state of what someone is and if you try to base yourself on that, then when you do come out of that state and realize you don’t have anything else other than that, then you might be losing out on a lot.
It has come to my attention lately that the “foodie scene” in Toronto (and most major cities of the world) has EXPLODED with hundreds of wannabe food “blogger” accounts. Scroll down some of the most popular photos on social media and you will see that there are so many new Instagram accounts by the name of “MaryEats” or “JohnFoodie” or “TorontoFoodAccount” or “ILoveToEat” or other equally ridiculous similar-sounding accounts… all having to do with food. What is up with that? (And where is the originality these days.)
I started blogging in March 2013 and like I’ve said many times before, this was just a space for me to record my random thoughts and travel adventures. Then, as I enjoy eating and taking photos of food, one restaurant review led to another — I was recognized for it by a restaurant I reviewed– and soon, this blog became a “food blog”.
To me, a food blog — and I am talking about a traditional one here — is an online website, a “web log”, that has different posts in it where each entry is written about food. It could be a blog for home-cooked meals, recipes, or restaurant reviews. It has text, written content, anywhere from 200 to 1,000 words (if it only has two lines of text, I can’t really call that a blog…) and contains at least one or two photos. It’s meant to inform, to share an experience at the restaurant perhaps, to share the food that was eaten, how to make a meal (recipes), and is basically reading material for someone on the Internet to absorb, view photos, and become a little educated on what the writer wanted to share.
Blogs have been around for a while (at least two decades) and they have traditionally been quite quiet. Sometimes, you won’t even know that a friend has a blog until they share it because there isn’t a need to share it. Sometimes blogs are meant to be private or only for close friends and family to read.
In the last three years since I started this blog, I’ve noticed something very interesting happening in the foodie scene. When I started blogging about food, there were already several established and committed bloggers on food in Toronto who had made a small name for themselves in the food community. I learned about these bloggers on Urbanspoon back then (it’s now rebranded as Zomato). Each of these bloggers were well-informed, good writers, and dedicated to their craft. They did the same thing that I did — write about food that they ate in order to share their unbiased restaurant dining experiences. Each blog post was edited (usually several times), written with correct grammar and spelling, had nice prose, and was a quality piece of art to read.
Fast forward to today, let’s talk about Instagram — this photo app having launched in 2010, there are a lot of people who take photos of food and post them on this app — originally designed to be a photo platform that you shared photos you took “instantly” with private or public networks after applying a filter or two with a few words in the caption and to be posted right away. But in 2015-16, Instagram has transformed to be not an “instant” application anymore. You have people* who, having taking the photo, will wait until they have a spare moment before they actually post the photo (there are even ideal times to post content on Instagram now to get the maximum exposure). But even before posting the photo, which could either have been taken on the smartphone or a DSLR camera, it is edited heavily — using not just the filters and edit tools on Instagram but on professional editing applications/software to make the photo look ‘perfect’ before they draft a text-heavy caption, include anywhere from 10 to 30 hashtags and then to finally post it. Some people will also tag well-known bloggers or “influencers” on the photo too, overlapping them, so that their photos get more likes.
<*not every person using Instagram posts their photos like this; I’m really talking about the wannabe food “blogger” IG accounts who are doing what I described — not the other ones who still post their photos without an ulterior motive.>
And that is what Instagram has evolved into today in 2016. It’s not instant. (Save the instant unedited photos for Snapchat instead). It’s changed into a quite self-serving platform where you really refine each photo and what you caption. Some people even perfect their entire Instagram feeds so that when you scroll down their feed, they have alternating photos to fit a certain colour or structural theme. It’s become quite ridiculous.
Why am I talking about Instagram and blogging? It’s because it seems like Instagram has become the new blog.
It’s like the Instagram star killed the blogging star. Heard that before? “The video star killed the radio star”:
<Talking about the music industry: Back then, as a singer on the radio, you didn’t have to dress up, look “flawless”, or act a certain way because people only wanted to hear your beautiful voice. If you could truly sing and were really talented, you were a radio star. You earned it because talented singing can be rare. However, once television was invented and there were TV stars, these TV stars often didn’t have as much raw singing ‘talent’ as these radio stars in order to appear on stage. They could simply dress to perfection, have a pretty face, feign their talents and yet outshine the radio stars. This is what I’m talking about; it’s like the same thing has happened to true blogging — quality writing has been replaced by mere photos.
(And yes, the two media are different in their own way just like writing and taking photographs are; but for the sake of this post, the focus also touches upon trends in the food industry.)>
I comment on this because what used to happen is that restaurants would notice a food blogger, respect their opinion and influence on the community, and invite them to a private restaurant tasting in exchange for a free meal. Both sides were happy about this because the food blogger got a free meal, the restaurant got exposure of their name out into cyberspace, and the food blogger — a food lover — was happy because they got to blog about the experience too. Win, win. It was considered relatively authentic too because the blogger knew enough to reveal or include a disclaimer that the meal was complimentary so that their readers were informed.
. . .
Due to shorter attention spans; faster, better technology in smartphones; convenience and widespread use of such phones; and the huge emergence of social media as a dictating factor for everything we do in our lives, the Instagramer quickly overshadowed the blogger. The Instagramer, one who uses these ever-advancing smartphones to take as good of a picture as a DSLR camera now also “blogs” on Instagram. They take a food photo, edit the heck out of it, write a huge gigantic paragraph in the caption area, including the name of the restaurant, name of the dish, price of the dish, address of the restaurant, and an opinion, add in millions of hashtags in order for their photo to get noticed, and all of a sudden, these have become the norm for “food blogging”. (Especially when, like I mentioned before, they use the word “food” or “eat” in their Instagram account name… then for sure that naturally garners more followers because they post exclusively about food and everyone nowadays likes to post and share about food! *eye roll*)
The Instagramer realized that there was a real “industry” and business in critiquing and sharing food photos (devaluing the effort and time it takes to write a real piece) to now jump into the “food blogging industry” too and most of all, it seems “easy” to be able to do it in exchange for free food. They wanted to be recognized too for sharing food photos and to get invited to food events.
Also, what has changed is the restaurant industry. Instead of a restaurant owner/representative now personally reaching out to the food blogger to invite them to a private dining session, the restaurant now hires a PR agency which will now host a gigantic “media event” for people who like food (don’t mistake these as food bloggers) to come take photos of the food and that is now what is considered a media event.
Don’t get me wrong. This is way more lucrative, practical, and effective on the restaurant’s part than inviting one single food blogger to the restaurant for a private meal because now you have upwards of 30-100 people gathering into the restaurant who are more than ready and hungry (literally and figuratively) to take photos of your food and share it on the net. You can’t even buy that type of advertisement without a huge hefty fee and this is all done for free. So of course, this type of advertisement is happening more and more because restaurants don’t need to fork out much money and the exposure they receive is gigantic.
What I’m trying to say is that the food industry has changed once more. Instead of perhaps more authentic dining experiences where the traditional food blogger would have enjoyed dining in and sharing a full experience through words and photos, now it has reached a level of commercialism and materialism where the sole purpose is to display food, give samples, and invite mass numbers of people ready to photograph and eat in order to have their food advertised.
And believe me, when you have offers of free food, you will have tons of people willing to do anything in order to hope to get invited to a “media event”.
I have noticed the change because I no longer receive private invitations from the restaurants themselves anymore. The invitations are all from a PR company or person acting on behalf of the restaurant and where there are so many “foodies” dining together for the purpose of advertising the restaurant’s food. It’s so obvious that a media event has occurred when you see in your Instagram feed dozens of the same dish being shared but from different angles and camera filters/edits. At that point, even if you blog or post about the food, is it really a genuine or authentic experience anymore?
In short, it makes the entire process and experience very commercialized and fake… there’s no more authentic or genuine experience of enjoying food anymore. It’s about generating profits, and I don’t feel that great being a part of it on a mass scale.
Speaking of fakeness…
The reason why I mentioned fame in the beginning of this blog post is that there are increasingly growing numbers of instagram accounts that will “follow” you or “like” your photo many times in hopes that you will follow them back. (Same thing with comments. Random accounts will leave some generic comments on your photo in the hopes that you will notice their account and follow them back. Comments are written not to create conversation anymore but to spam someone’s photo for a return favour…) It’s become a game of numbers: Follow me and I’ll follow you. Once you follow me, I’ll unfollow you so that my perceived number of followers “look” high. Or, if you don’t follow me, I might follow you and unfollow and keep doing it so that eventually you will follow me back. It’s a pathetic method to gain numbers on Instagram. Yet, that’s how accounts keep growing on Instagram…
It’s become a superficial numbers game and many Instagram users can attest to this following/unfollowing practice as well.
But why? Why do we do that? Why are numbers so important?
- Numbers may be important if you are being sponsored/given revenue by a company and they want their product/services to be received by as many people as possible. Sure, that makes sense.
But for newbie accounts or Instagramers who just want more followers for the sake of receiving food invitations, that’s when it becomes incredibly fake and lame. You’re not posting about food because you like it; you’re posting about food because you want to be invited to restaurants for free food.
In the last several months, I have literally witnessed AT LEAST four people on my friends list start their own “food accounts” on Instagram. (There may be even more but perhaps they haven’t made it public or I’m not aware of it… yet.)
Why? What is the true intention of starting a food account? If you are doing it just because you want to ultimately be invited to a media event to get free food, then just stop. It’s so inauthentic, fake, and insincere.
I get it. Everyone likes free food. This is not something I can stop other people from doing. I am just observing and commenting on a trend. I still stick to my opinion though because as a blogger who started way before all of this media event advertising stuff, it seems so disingenuous to me. (I’m an INFJ and I really don’t like fake people.)
I know a couple of people definitely grew their accounts for the sake of free food because after they started posting lots of food-focused photos on their IG and learned to hashtag, they asked me, “How do you get invited to events?” “How did you start getting free food?” “How do I get invited too?” That clearly reveals their ultimate intention to me: I want to do it too! I want free food too! *hungry hungry greedy face*
It baffles me because what used to be hard work blogging about a restaurant, editing the post, inserting photos into WordPress, is now unrecognized and instead the new way to invite people to taste food is simply by an IG platform. It doesn’t take as much time or effort to do it.
Call me jealous, call me insecure, call me ungrateful, but that’s how I feel about all this. I’m lamenting the loss of the true food BLOGGER and how everything is so commercialized these days.
I’m really interested to see how far and how long this food trend is going to last. It doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere soon though because every other day, I see so many new “food accounts” on Instagram following me and liking my photos in hopes that I will like their photos and follow them back. I know other Instagramers do it to network, but if I don’t know you in real life and I haven’t had a conversation with you, I’m not going to follow you back. That’s just me. I’m not doing this for numbers. The reason why I “double-tap like” a photo is because I actually think it deserves a “like”. I’m not doing it because I’m mindlessly scrolling down a feed and wanting more likes or followers.
(I do admit that for a while, I fell into the trap of thinking that more numbers were better too and I learned to hashtag a LOT in my food photos, “like” photos on the masses, and reply to the generic comments in order to expose my photos a lot to make them “viral”. But after a while, I felt really empty and sold out, even burnt out. Why was I doing this? Why do I care about the numbers so much?! Remember, ‘fame’ and this Instagram world are fake! It doesn’t and shouldn’t define you as an individual.)
Now that I think about it, the Instagramer is likely to be overshadowed by live videos next. Look at Snapchat and its popularity. The trend of sharing our lives with each other seems to be unending — Facebook has lasted over a decade now and people still love to share what they do all the time; more so by the second and in real time. We simply live in an age where we don’t need to talk to each other to know what is happening in each others’ lives (provided you share it, of course). But that is another topic for another day. 🙂
Kudos to you if you read the entire post because this was a lot of ranting and expressed personal opinions (that’s another
problem trend nowadays; no one likes to read anymore — it’s all about the instant gratification — hence photos instead of blogs). If you got offended by any of this (maybe because you are another food “blogger”/Instagramer), remember, these are my opinions only.