The Puzzle of Instagram Food Bloggers

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For my visualization project, I compiled a selection of photos taken from a few Instagram accounts that act as examples of the categories of accounts being examined for this project (@RachlMansfield, @CheatDayEats, @TheInfatuation, @NoBread). I randomly organized the photos, such that they were nor organized according to their source. I also included images of hashtags used by the bloggers when they posted their images, and created a puzzle graphic as the final product.

There are a few reasons that I decided to represent this social media content in this way. I chose to randomly organize the photos to represent the way an Instagram user would come upon them in a newsfeed: interspersed but still all together and at once. Additionally, I chose to randomly intersperse the hashtags and images because I felt that it was important to show the ambiguity that exists within food content on Instagram. It is not immediately clear to a viewer of this visual which of the foods may have originally been tagged “#plantbased” or “#realfood” or “#glutenfree,” which parallels the confusing and somewhat ambiguous ways that healthy eating and lifestyles are presented on social media—sure, something may be vegan, gluten, and dairy free, but that doesn’t necessarily make it healthy.

Some of the specific images I chose also highlight another aspect of this project: the role of the blogger. The photos seen within the collage, such as the blogger in a bikini holding a burger, are the epitome of the idea of opposing notions of indulgence and well-being, and it is images such as these that I presume to be a cause of some of the confusion, misinformation, and misguidedness surrounding these bloggers, their followers, and Instagram users in general.

Most notably, I chose to create the visual of a puzzle out of this collage to represent the bottom line of this project—that these differing ideas and images of how people should, do, and are tempted to eat and live—and how they talk about it—all somehow fit together within the common space of Instagram. It is wild, at least to me, to examine how these promotors of clean and healthy living and eating seamlessly coexist with these other proponents of excess and indulgence. Thus, in addition to working as a visual representation of the questions being asked within this project, I hope that this visual is a way for people to see and appreciate the complexities and contradictions within the world of Instagram food blogs, and inspires them to think about and consider how it may influence the way they live as well.