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S6 E3 –Is social media having a negative effect on our relationship with food?

As part of our work a lot of what we do is shared through social media and it’s deemed normal to have a social presence. Is that to the detriment to the food we produce however? Do we put the ‘Instagamability’ of food above the actual taste of it and if so, is that a bad thing?

Best soundbite:”This is the losers podcast, the only people winning are the people listening.” – Mike Huttlestone

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  1. joyfulbloom

    Totally late on joining the discussion, but in case anyone in the team is still reading comments on these older podcasts – I think the way you guys rebranded you’re videos from recipe videos to Ultimate battles, Mystery box challenges, etc. was genius. I used to love watching you guys around 2013-2014, but once all the trending recipes were done (like macarons, lava cakes, etc), I just had no interest in recipe videos that I would want to make anyway. It wasn’t until recently during quarantine that I binged watched all your recent content that I realized how much your format has changed. But exactly like you guys said, putting all these fun recipes in battle videos makes me consider recipes that I would even think of making, and on top of that, I get amazing entertainment out of it as well – so much so that I ended up joining the SortedClub! I have some recipes from the Packs app that I have planned for the week, and I’m looking forward to what else you guys have in store!

  2. badinflspeaks

    I’ll start out with admitting I’m a phone on the table person. Women’s pockets weren’t made to sit down with anything larger than keys in them. It’s habit to take my phone out of my pocket as I sit down no matter where I am. In fact, it’s sitting next to me on my desk right now.

    I’m not sure Instagram has really changed the way I interact with food beyond making me more curious to try different things. My family has a long history of taking pictures of our food. I have a lot of memories of family vacations where my dad would pull out a camera and take pictures of what we were eating. I’ve got travel photos of his from the 1970s where he took pictures of his food. He’d have them printed too. One of his bosses commented that “every time Doc came back from vacation he’d have pictures of food to share.”

    None of will prioritize the picture over eating while the food is the intended temperature though.

    Generally the pictures I post are of food I really enjoyed or something new I tried making. Sometimes it’s to share thoughts on a new restaurant with friends.

  3. Anya Lampesberger

    I’m kind of in two minds regarding this topic, and I shall get the negative one out of the way first. On the one hand I think that especially instagram has a very negative effect on our relationship with food in general. On the one hand I think that is due to a surge of fitness food bloggers, who portray a lifestyle that is just not achievable for most of the people out there looking at this content, and therefore cause more of a frustration with food than an appreciation for it, on the other hand, I keep seeing people in real life (and I have been guilty of this myself in the past) who will genuinely let their food get cold in order to get the “perfect gram”, or who will order food that they believe will look best and therefore perform best on social media. In my opinion that is a little bit sad, because I think that that kind of thinking takes away from the experience of having excellent food and just enjoying it because it is there. However, I do understand why we as people do these things, because, as it was said in the podcast, it is all about social status, and posting pictures of delicious looking food is one of the easiest way to say “oh, look at me, I’m having a great time”.

    With all that said, I have to admit that, for me personally, social media has had an incredible effect on my perception and appreciation of food, especially in the past couple of months. I’ve always had a sort-of-passion for food and cooking, but then I rediscovered the sorted channel and the related other social medias (shout out to Ben’s twitter and Instagram at this point) and I fell back in love with the whole process and industry of it. I’ve cooked more in the past five months than I have in the past ten years of my life, and that is (genuinely) due to you guys. Had I not randomly clicked on one of your videos again months back, and subsequently bingewatched a lot of your content, I don’t think I would be cooking as much now as I am and more importantly would not have reignited my passion for food. I eat so much more diversely now than I did even a year back, that even my parents (I’m 22) won’t believe half the stuff I eat now and love, because I used to refuse to try it as a kid because I didn’t know it. I have been really getting into cooking and the science and nerdiness behind it again, and my friends can vouch for this, because I keep banging on about it, and I’ve learnt an unbelievable amount in that short span of time and tried out so much new stuff, and to me that is incredible and I am very thankful.
    That would not have happened, had I not had social media and followed sortedfood or came in contact with food content on the internet, and I feel like I would have massively missed out!

    So, I do believe that social media has some negative effect on our relationship with food, especially on “showy” platforms such as Instagram, however, for me personally, the positives far outweigh the negatives, and I am incredibly thankful for it.

  4. AimyS

    This is a great topic considering how the rise of social media has changed the way we look at food. I think that platforms like Instagram and YouTube are having an increasingly positive impact. For one, they can showcase food from a variety of different cultures and cuisines, which we may not have access to otherwise. Secondly, they can highlight ingredients being used in new and innovative ways e.g. using cauliflower as a pizza crust. As someone from the subcontinent, I had only seen it being used in curries. It also can be an amazing resource for people who follow specific diets, and be used to create awareness about them e.g. the Sorted “Can we go vegan” series.

    On a personal level, it helped my expand my tastes, and maybe that is in part due to the way it is presented, but honestly? It’s because of how the recipes are described and made that really captured my interest. Sorted is the main channel that helped my step out of my food comfort zones and get into looking at the ingredients. Having a team that is so passionate about the food they make and present is incredibly inspiring.

    Thank you for being this dedicated and also really reflecting upon the way that you approach food in regard to how it may be presented to a larger audience. I do not regret for even one second being part of this community and am proud to be able to support people who want to take into account ethical concerns. In particular, Barry’s concern about interrupting lives with the social media content I feel is non existent. The little notification we get twice a week is something I actively look forward to , as do so many others I am sure!

  5. Dimi

    Wow. It took me a couple of days to get this comment ready. Social media is definitely something I have opinions on!
    I think when it comes to Insta posting food etc Mike hit the nail on the head when he said it was all about intention. I also think at the start of this conversation you were all pretty quick to guess and judge people’s intentions. I use to be an avid photo taker/poster when eating out, especially 8 or so years ago when instagram first launched and I was also just starting to work full time and afford to eat at places that served food worth taking photos of. I’ll admit a lot of it was “for the likes” and the followers, but I was also starting out as a photographer back then and was trying to get a lot of followers to get my stuff out there. (I was not and am still not, by any means a good food photographer, but as mentioned, food porn makes for easy likes) I don’t think I ever did it because I wanted cool or cool by association.
    These days I’m with James in not wanting to pull my phone out at dinner at all, I much prefer being present with whoever I’m with. But I do still do it sometimes, depending on where I am and who I’m with, and for very different reasons than before. I do it when the food looks really good AND tastes really good, and I’m in a great, local place that I think deserves some recognition and acknowledgement. And so I can let other people, who are also into food, know about it. I also post more things I make at home. Because I’m proud, I know other foodies amongst my friends and family, (and now some people the sorted community), follow me and it might inspire people, and I like it when other people post what they’ve cooked. Basically, I post the kind of content I want to see.
    As for it having a negative effect on our relationship with food, no, I don’t think it has. It’s the old guns don’t kill people, people kill people argument. It’s not social media, but the way some people use it that is bad. And some people will argue that the model supports and rewards click-baity image over substance content, but I don’t think that will ever work long term. I live in inner northern Melbourne where the “hipster” cafe trend is king, and I’ve seen many cafes open up, get super popular, because their food is so instagramable, then go bust in a years time because it was not actually that tasty. The yelps, and google reviews, and time outs will eventually out weigh the instagram crowd.
    I follow a lot of artists, (and I do believe what you guys do, between the cooking and the photography and the videos and books is its own form of art) and over the years its proven time and again that what will last is meaningful content, that’s been thought out, carries a message, is engaging and importantly fosters a conversation and a community. This is why the buzzfeeds and the tasty’s are now scrambling to make actual cooking content. Their intentions were never, let’s hook them all with clickbait content get millions of subscriptions and then teach them something, it was always how to get the most viewers as quickly as possible and is now about how to retain them when their all click baited out and bored of the same crap being posted everywhere. And it shows.
    This is where what you guys do wins every time and you may not have 10 million subscribers overnight, but you’ve successfully run a business for over 10 years and fostered a great community where you can make the content you want to make, which also engages your audience to comment, participate, and take part rather than be a passive audience. Which means you can make a real difference and be proud of what you do.
    And FINALLY to tackle Barry’s comment, and guilt about what you do, and the industry you work in. Perhaps you need to remember that sometimes taking 10-15 minutes out of your life to engage in some content online and not be present in your life is not only satisfying, but well needed. There’s a reason it’s so popular. Though I agree that there are people that need to learn to disengage from social media and actually live their lives, I do think it’s not as bad as we all sometimes make it out to be.
    So in summery, no, social media is not bad, because we have Sorted Food.
    Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

  6. Annie1962

    “The Gram’ – Oh Barry you’re trying to be so hip hahaha

    I like to photograph my food for two reasons;

    1 – it’s a special occasion say, taking my son out for birthday dinner and it’s nice to remember what we ate and where etc

    2 – the dish looked impressive – I take the pic and then put the phone down and tuck in.

    Barry – You might notice that us avid viewers are WAITING for your Wed and Sun vids. I know when they’re coming on and plant myself down in front of the monitor in readiness. It’s become rather fun to see the red heart underneath any comment I make.

    The taste of the dish is PARAMOUNT. If the appearance of the dish is compromised by its looks then I’m not a happy camper. Give me the best taste you can and if it’s not plated up to look 5 star dining, so be it.
    I have instagram and spend my days refusing strangers’ friendship requests (creepers) so it’s not important to me that I gain popularity. The photos are my memories .

    As for you guys, I hope you are very aware that a very big reason that we watch your videos is because we have fallen in love with you – as persons , as friends, having fun and having a laugh whilst cooking new and exciting foods.
    I certainly don’t want to see a cooking video with a dull person just going through the motions of making a dish.
    Look at ‘Binging with Babish’. Like you, he’s created a style in which his personality is just as important as the food and he doesn’t even show his face most of the time!
    Don’t lose your humour, or your interactions with each other. Don’t lose your days of dressing up and stitching each other up because that’s you and that’s SORTED food.

    May I make a request that occasionally you bring back some aspects of your old show, like ‘comment of the week’ putting on ‘Barry and Ben are the best of friends’ song back on – you know what I mean. Just every now and then for the fun of it.

    Thank you also for considering my suggested topic that I posted on Facebook as Annette Erdtsieck re what makes a food critic. Should be an interesting topic and one which I’ve pondered for , for a very long time

  7. Anita

    Yaaaay, I’m flattered that my humble comment could contribute to this great topic.
    I’m not an avid food pic poster myself, but sometimes I do post photos of the dishes I make that taste good and/or are somehow special (for instance, if, by posting a pic with a recipe, I think I can help people who follow the diet I started to follow a few years ago). But even when I post something I am proud of – shying away from going completely public – I usually post it to my friends who might be interested in my concoctions (I’m in a Facebook group created by a few food lovers at the dog school I worked for where we share our eats 🙂 ). I don’t care about the perfect looks, the more homemade-looking, the better 😉 I rarely eat out but when I do my first thought isn’t about putting my food journey in progress online. But I’m always happy to talk to my friends about the great food experiences I’ve had.
    I have to admit that food on Youtube has a special place in my life as a mood booster. I need to cook every day, and I get a lot of inspiration from Youtube, including you, guys. I watch videos showing people who cook AND talk about food, people I can relate to, people I can learn from, who can get me excited about what I’m doing; the quick, captioned, food-porny ones just won’t do. This inspiration – similarly to what James said – doesn’t necessarily mean that I cook the recipes presented in the videos, I use the videos to simply get in the mood for cooking, to stimulate the cooking center in my brain 🙂 Watching others having a good time while cooking helps me get creative and enjoy the process when I cook alone instead of just doing it for survival. It’s all about the videos’ atmosphere. And I like how your videos make me feel 🙂 (I stumbled upon my first Sorted video almost 3 years ago, at Christmastime, when I was trying to get a little festive in the kitchen. It was your Christmas dinner cookalong, and I remember that I had to listen pretty carefully to be able to understand you with my American TV show-educated ESL ears. Since then, I’ve become hooked, and I don’t mind it at all if my day is disrupted by your vids 😀 ).

  8. lmeacco

    I find that I usually always take a picture of the food I’m eating…. but I don’t post it unless it tastes good!
    It’s similar to if you don’t have a good experience at a place, then you don’t recommend it to people!

  9. alm477

    I’m not sure I would say that social media is having a negative effect on our relationship with food–though I would probably say it was exacerbating trends/tendencies that are already there. You guys touched on it (as did Anita in her original comment) that at least part of food trends is social status and that the status/desirability of a food changes over time. I mean, at different times in European history ice cream, spices, hot chocolate, celery, pineapple, and iceberg lettuce were all status symbols used to flaunt wealth and status based on rarity, difficulty of producing them, and expense. Social media just allows us to flaunt a lot louder, faster, and more publicly than sticking a pineapple on the mantle for guests to see. However, beautiful photos only go so far with me. No matter how prettily you plate avocado you won’t get me to actually eat it. Though I would like to try a rainbow bagel someday…

    I don’t have a smartphone or much in the way of social media (stresses me out too much), but I will occasionally take pictures of food (usually sweets, because that’s what looks nice) I make because it’s something I worked hard on and it turned out really well and I want to document that (sometimes I put it on facebook, most of the time it’s too much effort). Though having OTHER PEOPLE taking pictures of food I made is a bit of a thrill, I will admit. But I’ve also had occasions where people were unwilling to eat something because they didn’t want to destroy it–two different occasions I’ve made gingerbread cakes shaped and decorated to look like houses (I have a novelty bakeware collection to rival Bens) and the cakes went stale because no one wanted to “ruin” them by cutting them. Which was flattering, but they were meant to be eaten not be a centerpiece. I learned the hard way going forward that if I wanted anyone to even try it I had to cut into it myself. I will confess that sometimes the things I make (cupcakes especially) I’ll use boxed mixes (usually doctored) and pre-made frosting because the fun I get out of making that thing is the decoration, so I’ll take a shortcut to get to the fun part.

    I’ve always loved cooking shows, but frankly it’s rarely been for the food, especially when I was a kid (I’m a picky eater now, but I was MUCH worse when I was younger). One of my favorite cooking shows when I was little was Essence of Emeril, but in the 2-3 years I watched that show there was maybe a single recipe shown that I would have been willing to even try. What I got (and continue to get) from cooking shows is entertainment–fun personalities, people showing off cool skills (some of which are helpful!), and interesting information (even if it’s information I never/rarely use!). And yes, occasionally recipes that I actually try, adapt, or pull something from. In that vein, thank you for teaching me that adding a little nutella to homemade hot chocolate really elevates it 🙂

  10. Lmrocha726

    First off, I’m giving James a 10/10 on his first podcast appearance.

    I’m sort of in the same boat as James about having a no-phone rule when out to dinner with people, but if I’m going somewhere for a special occasion, I do like to snap photos of the food (and usually apologize profusely to the people I’m out to dinner with for being “that person”). The photos don’t always end up on Instagram, but I’m not much of a selfie-taker either so the food photos are my way of remembering a good night out.

    As far as social media’s influence, I almost think it’s raised the bar – now food not only has to look good because everyone’s going to be posting photos of it, but since we also have Yelp and Google which lets people rate the food and experience, those other factors also need to live up to the hype. I don’t think a restaurant can get away with having great looking dishes, but not deliver on taste or service. Social media accounts that rely solely on the appearance of food for their success might inspire people to seek out a local restaurant to try a certain type of food or dish – good for the restaurants and the patrons broadening their horizons and trying something new. So overall, I don’t think it’s had a negative influence for the most part. Of course there are exceptions, like Tasty-style videos, that have little instruction or too many shortcuts or recipes that simply don’t work and are only there for the views, but hey, that’s capitalism.

    Finally, I want to thank you guys for setting yourselves to higher standards and caring so much about what you’re offering to everyone watching/reading/listening. That alone sets you apart, but on top of that is your guys’ relationship and the history there. That’s definitely something that no one else can fake – that Sorted is founded in that relationship and it’s expanded to include all of us! So cheesy, I know.

    P.S. Are you doing any more Supper Clubs anytime soon? Maybe like, around the New Year when I will happen to be in London?? :winkwink:

    • Lmrocha726

      Oh also, I travel a lot on my own and like to try out nice restaurants wherever I visit – so in that case I have no qualms about taking photos of my food and posting to the Gram to keep my family/friends in the loop of what I’m doing abroad. I think the combo of being alone and taking pics of everything makes the restaurant think I may be a reviewer of some sort, and I’ve scored free champagne and appetizers in the past.

  11. JoRo

    1) James is awesome.

    2) I find the whole photographing food while in a restaurant strange it’s not something I or my family do, if I think the food was good I’ll tell the people I think will like it you have to try the thing from that place (and honestly it probably does end up being about that descriptive). But if someone has cooked a meal for me that is something a bit special, or I’ve made something and think it looks good I’ll photograph it, if the taste doesn’t live up to the look the photo gets scrapped, if it is impressive it will get posted to instagram, generally as a celebration of something someone else has done well and that I want to share with the friends I have on there.

    3. Cupcakes – these quite often end up being a prime example of style over substance. I always think they look amazing and then when you eat one you normally end up with almost unpleasantly sweet toppings and a rather bland cake (just had one for the first time in many months, rather disappointed). For me they are the epitome of a food where the instagramability has been put way above the taste.

    4. Overall I do think social media has made the general population more aware of the aesthetics of food, as mentioned there was definitely a melted chocolate/melted cheese hype that was huge for quite a while, but we are definitely shifting away from that now, but is that because of increased social awareness surrounding diet/lifestyle, food waste, desire to grow more food to reduce consumption of single use plastics? Or is it simply that people are tired of seeing the same things dressed up slightly differently?

    • Anita

      I’m with you on the fancy cupcakes! I consider them to be decoration rather than tasty food items 😀 They are pretty but not food-pretty for me. Looking at food-pretty pics evokes pleasant flavors in my brain, while rainbow-color my little pony cupcakes make me think of unbearable sweetness and food coloring.

  12. Nettan_Juni

    Who cares about how it looks like, I want the flavour!
    The few food photos that are on my Instagram, which is also posted on Facebook, is food that I know tastes good or you can see that I’ve tasted it and had to share it because it was so good!

    I’m not really a foodie, I’ve become more interested of food just a few months ago, when I discovered your channel, which has made me test things that I wouldn’t have tried before and even retasted things I didn’t like (spoiler, I still dislike them).

    But this means that I don’t really get that many photos or videos of food on my feed and while I do have friends that either are chefs or just love to cook, they rarely post about their food, except in a discord channel me and my friends have, we have a subchannel which is literally named food sex.

    Sure sometimes I get odd videos on Facebook that are pure food porn, but I lose interest in them very quickly, because I feel they don’t give me anything meaningfull.

    While on your channel I feel that I kind of get a relationship with you guys, you guys makes me laugh, makes me smile when it’s obvious how good friends you are and at the same time I learn more about food and cooking skills that has improved my life a bit.

    So I watch your videos for you guys and the food is just a bonus 😛 So in my case social media has had a positive effect on my relationship with food.
    I mean, despite not really having the money for it, I decided to invest in the club to get access to the recipes and to be able to listen to your podcasts. Worth every penny so far ^_^

    • Annie1962

      “So I watch your videos for you guys and the food is just a bonus 😛 So in my case social media has had a positive effect on my relationship with food.
      I mean, despite not really having the money for it, I decided to invest in the club to get access to the recipes and to be able to listen to your podcasts. Worth every penny so far ^_^….”

      THIS. I am not the only one feeling this way.

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