Imagine that it’s about 6:30 PM and you’re thinking about what to make for dinner. You’ve gone through your refrigerator and pulled out a few ingredients to make something simple and quick. While your food is cooking, you take a moment to scroll through your Instagram feed, you stop on a picture of a decadent plate of pasta and wish that it were yours. The image is hashtagged #eeeeeats and when you click the hashtag, you find over half a million posts with the same term. What on earth is #eeeeeats and why does everyone know about it but you?
This is what I asked myself until I found out about the root of #eeeeeats. Anyone who operates an Instagram account is likely familiar with the hashtag; the term was coined by the men behind Infatuation, a restaurant review website. I adore the site and its content; their reviews of restaurants are comprehensive and entertaining, and their interviews with public figures are genuinely interesting. Much as I adore Infatuation and its youthful, hip approach to restaurant reviews, I have come to dislike what its hashtag has come to represent. The pros of #eeeeeats? Those who use the hashtag can join the network of people Instagramming their food and share their own dishes with the #eeeeeats world. It’s a great way to join the conversation and Infatuation has grown vastly in popularity due to the popularity of their hashtag. The site regularly reposts shots uploaded by followers with the hashtag #eeeeeats, thus encouraging us to continue using the hashtag.
The issue with #eeeeeats is that it has become a way for Instagram users to upload the ridiculous meals that they may or may not be eating. The more extreme the food, the more likely your photograph is to be reposted, liked, or commented on by Infatuation, thus gaining you a bevy of new followers. The image below depicts types types of shots that Infatuation regrams.
Due to the rising popularity of food accounts that post exaggerated, extreme versions of dishes of all sorts, accounts like @youdidnoteatthat have risen to fame. The account is dedicated to calling out bloggers, models, and celebrities alike for sharing images of food that it’s hard to believe that they ate. Upon finding the account, I laughed endlessly and immediately hit follow, eager to receive content from an account that shared the same thoughts as I did. As the summer went on, I eventually unfollowed @youdidnoteatthat, fed up with the images it produced. Who was the owner of the account to decide that there was no way that people were eating the food that they Instagrammed? Isn’t that their prerogative? Why creative negativity when there is no need?
As we learned in last week’s video, social media has the potential to bring so much good to the world. It is a place for sharing positivity, creativity, and innovation. We have the opportunity to share our lives with those around the world. Christakis ends his Ted Talk with the following statement: “I think social networks are fundamentally related to goodness. And what I think the world needs now is more connections.” I wholeheartedly support Christakis in his closing remark; social networks have the power to bring such good to our lives; however, as is often the case, many people have taken advantage of an open, boundless situation and created negativity. Something that began as a positive food-sharing account and website now has negative connotations due to the extreme level that followers have taken it to. Additionally, accounts like @youdidnoteatthat have taken it upon themselves to create negativity, albeit rather comical, where there once was not.
So what are the managerial takeaways from #eeeeeats and @youdidnoteatthat? First of all, it’s that jumping on trends like #eeeeeats is a great way to grow your brand. Thousands of bloggers are utilizing the hashtag to grow their brand–I have used it myself to get a few extra likes! No shame. But what’s the takeaway from @youdidnoteatthat? It’s that recognizing the line between comical and offensive is a very important skill to have. It’s easy to take a joke too far and get yourself in hot water, so recognize where your brand may not belong and be careful when walking that line.
Thus, I end my blog post with a few questions. Are parody accounts like @youdidnoteatthat a good thing? While it creates negativity, it also brings up an important issue that many people can relate to and keeps us laughing at the ridiculousness social media can bring. How important is it that we keep social media positive? Regarding the popularity of Instagramming food, are we being persuaded to eat (or pretend to eat) more than we should simply for the Insta? Is this aspect of Instagram and #eeeeeats fostering an unhealthy eating culture?