I first joined Instagram in 2015 because my boyfriend said it’ll give us a place to post our pictures together because our entire families were on Facebook and would love (understatement) to get a good scoop about our lives. The fancy-shmancy filters made me look a lot prettier than I actually am. So thats how it started, couply photos and great filters. This was also around the time that I had just started adjusting to graduate student life and did not cook AT ALL. I saw that people not only put restaurant food pictures on Instagram (A practice frowned upon on Facebook), but have dedicated food accounts! I followed all of them. I was homesick for Indian food. Totally unmotivated to cook, I just followed all the Pune, Mumbai, Delhi based food accounts. I was like a teenage boy who’s just discovered free internet porn. All day I just looked at and commented on pictures of pav bhaji, paneer tikka, cheese masala dosas and chilly chicken. That was my sad Instagram presence; I was that creepy dude on Facebook who commented “Meddem u r very prity. Plz accpt reqst”. But not for long.
After I put on a ton of weight and depleted my savings on restaurant food, it was time I turned that stove on and cooked something. Susheel is great at taking pictures. He said I should put a picture on Instagram of the food I cooked. And that was it, I thought I am going to become an instant sensation. Breaking the internet with my amazing new food account. I got an unoriginal new handle. An Indian rip off of ‘Shiro Dreams of Sushi’, continuing the Indian legacy of putting a desi twist on things and calling them our own (Pritam’s music, Bollywood movies, our constitution!). A PhD student who cooks, that has got to be unique right? Seven billion people in this world, sure it was going to be an unique account. I soon found out there were seven food accounts of PhD students from my University. I can do the math. Slightly disheartened, I continued my food account nevertheless, holding back on the hashtags because lets face it, they’re tacky. The likes on my pictures never crossed that stage where you stop seeing the names of people who pity-liked your pictures. Then Susheel had a brilliant idea, he sent me links to articles on how to create successful Instagram food accounts (you won’t believe how many of those are out there).
And there I was, with a public profile and fingers locked and loaded to type out hashtags with the speed of light. I followed all the successful food accounts and commented on each one of their pictures. My right thumb and shoulder haven’t stopped hurting since. Surprisingly, this worked! Instead of being creeped out by this kid who keeps commenting “Such a lovely dish dear!” on all their pictures, people started liking me back. I soon reached double digit likes and had my own set of stranger followers. I am sure all my friends unfollowed me because I had become a hashtag sellout. As I crossed three hundred followers, I decided just normal food pictures weren’t enough. I started trying out new recipes, bought new pretty plates from World Market, conjured up more and more hashtags. I also started this fail blog to put up my recipes. I soon realized there are two things I couldn’t do to get more likes, write recipes and tag a million other people in my pictures. I can never seem to remember what all I put in the food and in what quantity or order. Also there are already so many recipe accounts that I read to cook that it is redundant and unethical to put up recipes. The motto of my entire life has been to cause the least possible inconvenience to others. Waking up to being tagged in a million poorly taken food photographs must surely be annoying for the Insta celebrities. Its also not justified that tagging fifty people on a Facebook photo is unsophisticated, but is totally acceptable to do the same on Instagram. This is not different from an ugly dude tagging fifty hot girls in his profile pictures to get more likes!
As I reached four hundred followers, I realized there was an ugly underbelly to the community Instagram food celebrities. For one, they have cliques that follow and comment on each others pictures all the time. Like a mutual contract. Nothing wrong with that. But having a ton of followers is not the end of being a celebrity, you should follow the minimum number of people. Which is a paradox because you need to follow more people to get followers. I soon realized that people follow you, then you follow them, the next day they unfollow you and you end up looking silly! I realized this when the same person followed me twice in the same week. Also, to look cool, you don’t put many hashtags in the caption. You put them as a comment under your picture. When people comment on your photo, the first comment gets hidden. And I thought doing catalysis on nanoparticles was complicated!
The best thing about Instagram is that anyone can be a celebrity. Theres no way to tell if a beautiful food picture is actually delicious. As I reach five hundred followers, which will go down to 495 by noon tomorrow, I am losing a sense of why I started doing this in the first place. What happens when I become an Instagram celebrity? Does that mean I am a great cook, great photographer or just talented at hash-tagging? Do I get richer? I don’t have the answers. Honestly I can’t even justify why I spent $30 on buying new plates to take better food pictures. It’s a great thing to be famous, even if it is in a small community. But it is not worth the time and energy spent playing mind games and double tapping pictures till the phone screen cracks. Having said that, I will now intersperse this wall of text with my Instagram pictures to get more followers, cause I am sneaky that way. Happy ‘gramming my folks! #hypocrite #instawannabe #hashtagsarentlame #hatersgonnahate