Why is Food Porn a Thing?
I recently went on vacation and posted photos of it to my Facebook page. I took photos of meals I enjoyed and was quite excited to post them also. I related this to my friend, Laureen who is a food blogger, “Art and the Kitchen.” She told me she is amazed at the popularity of her food photos and how quickly her blog took off. She asked me if I could tell her why this is a ‘thing.’
It’s Complicated For A Reason
This is my simplified understanding. Hunger and desire are primal urges in us and ‘food porn’ brings those together in a complicated way. Photoshopped pictures of beautifully arranged food draws on a fundamental quirk of instinctive behaviour. Food represents survival. Visually heightened images of food light up the survival areas as well as the desire centers of our brain. Double attention-getting. Because our brain is programmed for survival, and food is necessary for survival, the primitive brain ‘fires’ or lights up when it senses a food source. Sight is one sense. It then ‘wires’ it to another part of the brain to make a memory, so that it can return to that source when necessary. When a successful ‘fire and wire’ happens, the brain sends out a chemical response in the body, in this case, a pleasurable one. This solidifies the recognition and memory process. Forever afterward, we get a physical ‘hit’ every time we see a picture of food.
Added to the chemistry, food also triggers our primal emotions. Because, most of us, got our first food from our mothers, food is associated with love and nurturing. So now there is a structural network of firing and wiring. This complexity ensures food porn’s constant and lasting affect on our brain, body and emotions.
So, Why do We Feel The Need To Post Pictures of Our Food?
The theories about why people like sharing their food images are numerous. When I delve into my reasoning for taking and posting photos of my food I would say that they represent indulgence and pleasure. The words behind my photos would be, “look how I am enjoying myself. ‘see the abundant and slightly hedonistic experience I’m having.” And, if I’m real and honest, they might also say, “aren’t you jealous?” The pictures could also show you more about who I am by showing you what kind of food I like.
Pictures on Laureen’s food blog are instant representations of the recipes she’s written. The pictures (she’s an awesome photographer, so they are fantastic pictures!) are a thousand times more interesting and attention grabbing than the words and instructions, which of course makes people more likely to stop and look, even if they have no intention of making the recipe.
What about you? Do you get a ‘hit’ from food photographs? Do you take pictures of your food? And if so, why?