My name is Pim and I post pictures of food on social media.
It’s all rather embarrassing. I get overexcited when presented with an artistic dish. I gush with enthusiasm when faced with a thrillingly creative menu. I feel like Keats’s Stout Cortez upon the discovery of a unique and spectacular dining venue. And due to being an onl
y child, I have always had a problem with over-sharing (which thankfully works out well when one is in media). But most of all, I simply find it hard to resist that “Share Photo” button on my iPhone’s Facebook app, just so that I can trumpet the wonder about to amuse my bouche with the world…okay, well, with my “friends” anyway.
Often I find myself waking up the next morning with a groan as I hastily delete my excessive number of close-ups of a late night posting of a “lack of ramb” or the finely pixilated textures of a particularly fluffy chocolate soufflé. While I am sure that some compulsive disorder can best explain my impulses, my oft-repeated excuses (to myself, to my friends who are fed up with yet another photo of yet another bowl of fettuccini, and to anyone else who will listen) is that part of my job is to tell people what is going on in Chiang M
ai. And I choose to do that through traditional, nontraditional and social media. In fact, I am helping to drive business to well-deserving restaurants. If truth be known, I am actually elevating the palette of the masses. Now that I think about it, I should be given a medal for so selflessly sacrificing my waistline for the greater good of mankind!
Okay, back to reality.
With my quivering and anticipating ‘friends’ waiting for my gastronomic Kodak moments in mind, I had an utterly deflating encounter recently when I went out for dinner with my friend and well-known Thai food blogger San Suebsaeng (whose blogs we also translate into English on ChiangMaiCityNews.com). After our delicious delights were served, we both grabbed our phones and snapped a few photos to be updated onto our relevant social platforms. I was instantly gratified by a handful of likes and was merrily making a good dent in the stuffed squid green curry half an hour later when a group of about eight people came gushing up to my friend and asked to take a photo with him. Apparently they had seen his posting on his blog and all decided to come along and order the exact same dishes. The owners of the restaurant were ecstatically, I was jealously, and the gaggle of foodies were simply, impressed. Social media at work is a pretty powerful tool.
The experience made me think about the fact that Thai people are one of the highest users of Facebook, with 88% of all internet savvy Thais using the social platform. Bangkok has nearly 8.7 million Facebook users, the highest of any city in the world. And Instagram is making stellar growth with up to 600,000 users nationwide, and over 21 million photos posted in the first four months of this year. What are they all doing?
Well, my theory is simple: food. We Thais have always shared our food. We cook together and eat together, we pick and scoop from the same plates and bowls, we will drive miles out of our way to find the best food to take home to our friends or family, we talk about food incessantly, we cook and eat constantly. Food has always been the nourishment of not just our bodies, but our social interactions.
So, is it any wonder that we have hijacked social media and used it in a way which reflects our own cultural traits, to further our passion for the sharing of food, to create a virtual carbon copy of our social norms?
As I write this editorial, I see my cousin is visiting New York and posting a real-time update of her nine course degustation menu at Le Bernardin while another cousin appears to be digging into a crab dumpling at a sidewalk cart somewhere near Khao San Road – and really, what’s not to love about that?
So, next time you (you know who you are) are tempted to write a snarky comment in response to my magnificent photo of a beef carparccio, take a moment to remind yourself that I am merely following my cultural norms and showing my quintessential Thainess by posting and sharing my gluttony. So, there!
Citylife this month:
Hilary Cadigan spent the last two days before deadline editing her story about the Kayan Long Neck people from 40 pages down to six…big complex issues surrounding this disparate ethnic group. She also visits the artistic community around Wat Umong, an area that residents claim is the highest per capita community of artists in Thailand. I interview a woman who is working with our prime minister to further the empowerment of Thai woman as well as share the heartbreaking life story of a woman who grew up in virtual slavery. We also introduce to you a fun new column called CityGuide! If you want to be featured as a resident expert for your community, please get in touch: [email protected]