The XX Factor

Now Instagram Has Come for Your Dinner

Nope, still hungry

Photo by Nitr/Shutterstock

Chapter 119 in How the Internet Ruins Everything: Seeing pictures of food on Instagram or Pinterest before a meal can take the pleasure out of eating. Researchers conjecture this is because looking at the pizza makes you feel as though you’re experiencing the pizza, even if it is a pixel pizza uploaded to immaterial Internet reality from hundreds of miles away. By the time you start eating real food, you’re over the whole thing.

Ryan Elder and Jeff Larson of Brigham Young University asked 232 volunteers to immerse themselves in images of either sweet or salty snacks. Half looked at 60 pictures of cake, truffles and chocolate; the other half, 60 photos of chips, pretzels and French fries. All the participants then received some salted peanuts to nibble. Those who had viewed the salty food highlight reel reported less enjoyment of the nuts than those who’d seen the sweet treats, presumably because they were jaded from all the virtual sodium they’d just virtually consumed.

Obviously, this is great news if you’re trying to diet: Just experience the cookie with your eyes! Your brain can’t tell! But given an omnipresent Web saturated with gastro-porn, glistening with other peoples’ butter, caked in their condiments, will we ever truly relish real food again?     

Just “avoid looking at too many pictures of food…if you want to enjoy your food consumption experience,” says Larson.

Here’s another idea: Sneak up on your IRL repast, eyes closed, nose plugged. Pretend you are simply going for a walk in a high-security facility. Then, when you’re in position, unplug your nostrils and open your eyes while simultaneously shoving the meal in your face. Your tongue will register the food’s existence at the exact same time as all of your other senses. Surprise! Peak prandial satisfaction! Or you could just stop checking your phone during dinner.