And so it began...
Okay, so it’s been more than a year since I went to my first social media event (it’s a thing, look it up) in Baltimore but I really like the title of this post and now this section. The invite came in the form of an email from @liketheteaeats (see above). At the time, I had no idea who that was or how big & varied this world really was. I’ve since gotten to know @liketheteaeats and several others through these kinds of events and just generally breaking bread with people who aren’t wary about taking pictures of their food. Going forward, I’m going to refer to these social media personalities with their Instagram handles because that’s their primary face to the public and it probably makes the most sense in reference to this blog.
So, this blog. I’m going to change it up a bit. For a while (not only in this current space but the former incarnation of Food Nomad), I’ve only been focused on writing about the places I’ve gone to eat. I’m changing it up because I don’t really feel comfortable giving reviews about food and restaurants. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, it’s that I feel like I’m not really qualified to do such a thing no matter how I aspire to make sure I learn all about food and the culinary world. Additionally, I’d like this blog to talk more about my experiences and perspective through this kind of weird journey into the age of eating publicly.
While that was my first Baltimore experience, it wasn't my first rodeo, and I had been invited to events in DC & NYC way back when I was a more active blogger and hadn't discovered the joys (and frankly easier to use) of Instagram. The idea behind these events is to help promote a restaurant. In this case, it was the Cardinal Tavern (more on this gem of a place on a later date). I don’t know if these events make that much of a difference, or whether or not I’m smart enough to know they do, for restaurants primarily because it's very difficult to measure the return of these types of marketing efforts. I mean you can measure engagement related to a social media post for the event (more to come on what this means later) but you can’t really measure if this actually brings in customers. However, the logic is that people who are invited to these events, given a complimentary meal & drink (more on this later too), have a shit ton of people following their accounts and presumably some of those followers will likely visit the places they post about.
So, Instagram. It's essentially the perfect social media platform for taking pictures or in my case, taking pictures of food. If Facebook is Match.com then Instagram is Tinder. There's a low barrier to entry, usually the prettiest and most provocative pictures get the most attention, and you don't have to read a goddamn thing but if you do, it may be more fun. Instagram wasn't as prevalent way back when I primarily wrote on the first iteration of this blog and used social media (twitter, a little FB, some of those old apps like urbanspoon & foodspotting) to point people to the blog. It made some headway, enough to garner interest for a few events but not nearly enough of an audience to even refer to this as a blog. Instagram (regardless of the fuckery they keep doing with their search algorithms and engagement methods) is a whole new ballgame. You post a good pic, you #hashtag a good game, you tag some larger accounts, and you connect to some people and your audience grew leaps and bounds. It's also surprisingly satisfying, self-gratifying and slightly addictive. Like I said, perfect.
Perfect enough to meld with my slightly obsessive habit of taking pictures of food. I don't rightly know why I take pictures of food. I do like to remember my eating experiences. I mean, I'm the dude that created a google map for all the places I ate in NYC BEFORE I even took one pic of food:
Yeah. That’s a touch embarrassing to say the least. That's also a ton of places to eat. I think, from there, it probably naturally evolved to taking pics of the actual food that I've eaten. The first place this occurred was actually Baltimore, Salt Tavern, for my Dad's birthday about five years ago. Since then, my Instagram tells me I’ve posted almost a 1,000 pics, videos or slideshows with almost all of them being posted in the past year and a half. I’m sure I’ve taken about 5x more pics stored randomly everywhere on my computer, my phone, the cloud and any other random photo sharing site I’ve joined over the years.
Regardless, it used to feel weird to take snaps of food, but nowadays, it’s quite the production especially if you go eat with like-minded people. There are cameras, there are lights, people have specific roles (hand models!), and less & less people, these days, even bat an eye when they see people taking pics. It’s almost a shock now if you’re sitting in a restaurant and you don’t see at least a couple of people taking pics of food with their phone.
To me, it still seems a little strange that this is the world I live in. I guess that’s why I want to now primarily concentrate on my observations of that world. It’s been a fascinating journey so far. I’ve met some great people who make eating a meal quite an adventure, I’ve experienced some great meals, done some unique things and even Snooki gave me a shout out. It’s actually taken me about four months to write this post (there’s a ton more written but I don’t want to blow it all in one go) because I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to write and then I realized that was the beauty of this. The experience of Eating Publicly is more open ended then just eating and reviewing food. It’s full of rich personalities, great stories and probably says more about the world we live in these days then we’re ready to admit. Stay tuned...