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Why Can’t Instagram’s Food Influencers Be More Transparent?

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Isn’t adding an “#invite” as easy as adding a filter?

Felicity Spector/Instagram

Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is in need of a little adjustment.

News of the week

Who knew it was a Bank Holiday this weekend? Just kidding. Anyone lacking a calendar can simply consult Instagram: whether they ended up at home or in a restaurant, everyone seemed keen to demonstrate how they were spending the bonus day off work. Surely few better ways of spending it better than this, though.

Feed-clogging event of the week

It was starting to feel like the mean streets of Instagram had gone clean. Posts enthusing about a new restaurant in the aftermath of a heavily-PR’ed opening felt thin on the ground; the unmistakeable signs of an agency-engineered Insta-get-together — gushing captions, identikit shots, the same hero dishes — were few and far between.

So it’s oddly satisfying to be confronted with a good old-fashioned influencer circle-jerk. To see enough of the same photos from the same meal that a viewer can mentally reassemble the whole table, place settings and all.

Case in point of the week

A brief reminder: this column has never been against the idea of Instagram influencers; it has only ever asked for a little more honesty in terms of whether invitations were extended, meals were comped, and content was paid-for. The utopian / naïve vision being that a more honest world might offer normal punters better information and more trustworthy recommendations. This isn’t hard to do, and it doesn’t have to detract from the endorsement or the prettiness of the pictures...

Other case in point of the week

The alternative looks like this. It might be that absolutely zero cash or any other kind of inducement exchanged hands; this is simply one food nerd enthusing about an exciting upcoming event. It also might be that money and / or freebies were provided and this post is no less of an ad than those sponsored ads (advertised as ads) that pop-up unbidden mid-feed. The point and problem is: it’s impossible to tell.

Problematic beverage of the week

For when you can’t be bothered to choose between white wellness bloggers co-opting / rebranding a centuries-old beverage from the Indian subcontinent and white wellness bloggers peddling dangerous myths about the difference between “clean” and “dirty” eating.

Reader mailbag question of the week

It’s over to Eater London contributor / Green Lanes frequenter Jonathan Nunn, who asks: “why is all food instagram influencer stuff like this?” It’s a genuinely good question. A theory: someone, somewhere, early in the Instagram Era discovered that sunny, high-energy captions generate many more likes (and therefore drive more engagement, and more earnings potential) than run-of-the-mill British frankness. Wording accordingly became increasingly EMPHATIC and phenomenally, amazingly positive! Just another sign that these social media platforms we have taken to with such alacrity are rewiring our brains without us realising it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Dish of the week

Suddenly, elderflower is everywhere. There are few more visually appealing harbingers of real actual summer; the usual cordials, sorbets, or fried blossoms aside, though, it’s pretty hard to find interesting things to cook with them. Enter a new contender.

Shot of the week

Yep.

We fry ravioli @palatinolondon

A post shared by Stevie Parle (@stevieparle) on

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