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Ashamed diners aren’t posting restaurant photos to Instagram like they used to

Young mom taking selfies with her toddler girl smiling in restaurant
Photo: Images By Tang Ming Tung (Getty Images)
Hot LinksHot LinksWe spend way too much time on the internet

While dining at bars and restaurants increasingly looks like it spreads COVID-19, people are desperate for some semblance of normal public life, and the pull of dining out is increasingly alluring. But, ironically, the more people go out to eat, the less they seem to post about it online, for fear of being shamed on social media.

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In a story for Eater, author Jaya Saxena writes, “The shame of going out to eat during the pandemic is enough to scare people off posting their meals on Instagram, but not enough to keep them out of restaurants.” And while Saxena’s story is built on personal anecdotes (and doesn’t include poll data, or an analysis of how frequently restaurant photos are actually popping up on social media these days), she makes a great point: people do seem to be eating out more, but talking about it less.

This type of secretive behavior isn’t limited to restaurants either. As Saxena notes, The New York Times recently reported on a similar trend in which people (typically ones with means and privilege) sneak away on vacation but avoid posting about it online, to hide their potentially risky behavior from public scrutiny. And, frankly, this shouldn’t be surprising. Depending on where you live (and what the prevailing local political attitudes are) you might face a considerable amount of shaming—from a variety of people whom you may or may not know—for engaging in behaviors that could spread the virus, or ones that show that you have a level of means that insulates you from the impact of COVID-19. Nobody likes to be shamed, and that’s especially true for people who seem to realize they’re doing something risky.

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The real question, though, is what kind of impact will this have on restaurants? Saxena quotes one diner who says that posting to social media is a way of supporting restaurants, and there’s some truth to that. If posting photos from restaurants is tapering off, how will surviving restaurants be impacted?

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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DISCUSSION

How did restaurants ever survive and thrive before Instagram, social media and influencers? I don’t know, maybe good food, good service and positive, real world word of mouth?

Sorry to break it to you but all those photos of your meal might feel important to you. To the rest of the world, yeah not so much.