Craving Likes and Comments: The Internet’s Food Obsession

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“Phone eats first!” Have you ever heard that statement before? Did it crawl up under your skin and pounce on any nerve it could latch onto? Or, perhaps, did you shout, “Yes! Add that filter! Tag the restaurant in your Insta story!” 

Well, whichever side you would defend in a food fight, it is safe to say that internet culture has made its way into our refrigerator and takeout boxes.  Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and seemingly countless other facets of the internet have made food a part of their digital agenda. The visuals are equally as important as the concepts, such as seeing a mouthwatering bowl of pho topped with a mountain of bean sprouts or a slice of New York-style pizza the size of the table supporting its cheesy girth. As a result, internet users across the map are zoning out in the most delicious way.

The mukbang community is currently trending across the web, complete with cheese pulls and Jeffree Starr eating five bags of Taco Bell. Mukbangs began in South Korea thanks to Simon Stawski, co-founder of Eat Your Kimchi. A typical mukbang includes an audiovisual experience of one or more people partaking in casual conversation and simultaneously eating. Viewers often replicate the meals of their favorite mukbangers and feel as though they are part of the conversation. At the very least, they have dinner company if no one else has time to grab a bite with them. It took about a year for the movement to pick up, and the fad hasn’t lost traction since 2015. 

Popular YouTubers who are not primarily mukbangers have jumped on the bandwagon, such as Trisha Paytas and Bretman Rock. Korean and other Asian cuisines are highly popular, as well as fast-food establishments and restaurants that the audience wouldn’t be able to enjoy due to insanely expensive prices.

Photos of trendy foods on Instagram create not only profits for niche and family-owned establishments, but also break the internet for longer spans of time than any egg or bottle of champagne sitting on Kim Kardashian’s booty. Unicorn bagels, fiery bowls of cheese pasta, the famous Emily burger – you name it. In an interview with the WZZM segment “Taste of My Town,” Chris McKellar of Grand Rapids, owner of Love’s Ice Cream, spoke on his part in an odd frozen fantasy flavor; charcoal. 

“It is an activated charcoal-flavored ice cream that is sort of a trend now in the food world, so it makes it completely midnight black and it has Michigan Balaton cherries in there blended up,” he said. 

Charcoal might not entice everyone’s taste buds. For anyone wanting to try out zany flavors that Baskin-Robbins hasn’t included in any of their 50, small shops across the country have created flavors like blue cheese, spicy ginger and durian.

As the tasty research continues, the strangeness keeps on keepin’ on. Celebrities’ favorite foods are another trend that piques internet users’ interest. In the ’90s, people would have cared about which nightclubs Gigi Hadid went to, but now they have to know where she eats her sushi so they can sleep soundly at night. Insider published an article about food joints around the country where the rich and famous like to chow down, two of them being in Detroit: Avalon Bakery and Astro Coffee.

There will obviously always be star-studded L.A. eateries like The Ivy and Nobu, and if pop-culture news outlets keep writing articles about them, the internet will keep them in its algorithm. Favorite celebrity foods can also mean awkward, mind-boggling food combinations that will either make the everyday grocery shopper cringe or applaud. Did you know Selena Gomez loves pickles sandwiched between Reese’s peanut butter cups? Or that Beyoncé craved bananas and ketchup when she was pregnant? YouTube sensations like Shane Dawson and Joey Graceffa published videos trying these combos and let’s just say some are tastier than others.

Where there is the internet, there are television- and movie-streaming websites. Within these websites are five-star cooking and food-oriented shows. Gordon Ramsay, world-renowned chef and TV personality, has racked up millions of dollars from his successful television series. These include “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Hotel Hell,” “24 Hours to Hell and Back” and a few other fiery namesakes.  Ramsey is known for his “leave your bull**** at the door” attitude when it comes to cooking, his intelligent mentor strategies and heated meltdowns, which make him an internet sensation. 

There are other shows for the more faint of heart who don’t enjoy hearing a beeping censor go off every other time someone on the show speaks. “The Great British Baking Show” is a fan favorite for its easiness to watch and quirky British flare. “Top Chef” feeds viewers with upscale dining and competitiveness that will leave one at the edge of their seat until the credits roll. These series bolster large audiences for online streaming sites such as Netflix and Hulu.

These fun, deep-fried trends enable the food industry to stay interactive with beauty, fashion and pop culture online. Loving food is a common enough trait to bring in all different kinds of viewers, making it easy for videos about eccentric restaurants and rainbow-dyed grilled cheese to go viral. Small businesses are raising their voices, and media coverage of cuisine is revolutionizing in ways we could never have imagined.