This Generation Is Connected to Phones, Not Food
The sensory experience of cooking and eating is being overtaken by Tasty videos and #foodporn
It’s 1 in the morning in Los Angeles. While the streets beat with urban shenanigans, three teenage girls huddle in a twin-sized bed for a sleepover. They’re hungry, and understandably so. They’ve watched seven episodes of “The Crown” since Uber Eats delivered dinner. An iPhone flashes blue light to alert one of the girls that they’re “liked.” She clicks on the notification, which transports her to her Instagram page; there, she admires the photo of fleshy sashimi that now lives inside her body, nearly digested. Her mouth waters.
Too tired to roll out of bed and make a midnight snack, the girls appease their grumbling stomachs with their eyes. The trio hovers over a laptop to watch minute-long videos of hands cooking. The monotony of cracking eggs, whisking, melted cheese stretching, kneading, mixing, forks revealing chocolate goo, cracking eggs, whisking, melted cheese…distracts them from their grumbling stomachs and coaxes them to sleep.
When I asked my 18-year-old sister how her relationship to food differs from our parents, she chuckled as she shared her addiction to these “hands and pans” videos. We also talked about Instagram food photography, vegan lifestyle vlogs, and the aphorism “your phone eats first.” (I imagine the 21st-century habit of photographing our food before we eat as a sci-fi twist on the ritualistic pause my Catholic mother would take for Grace.)
My sister is part of iGen, a cohort of those born between 1995–2010. They are digital natives with social media baked into their daily interactions with the world. When we talk about the tech-savviness of iGen, it’s important to remember the privilege and class implications of not only having access to social media, but also having the free time to engage with it. In the Global South, how the younger generation’s relationship to food differs from their parents — and how the U.S. exports hyper-processed food and its accompanying diseases — is a whole other story.