Do likes and comments really matter: an ethnographic vignette

Do higher calorie foods get more attention from the Instagram community?

As I sat in a popular Asian food spot in Baltimore talking with a friend we were interrupted as a young woman approached us to ask if we would mind if she used our table space to take a picture of her food. This was because we were sitting at the front of the restaurant facing the window and she needed the perfect lighting. While she was taking her photo I asked her if she was a food blogger of some sort, she responded that no, she was just posting a picture on her personal account. She said that she does follow some food bloggers and that is how she heard about the restaurant. This got me to wondering how popular food Instagrams really are? Yes, we can see the following count and how many likes each picture is receiving. But is this really how people are getting their food information? Or is it just another account to see aesthetically appealing photos.

This is something that I thought would be interesting to look further into. I decided to try another research method which is surveying. I have completed this survey with basic questions regarding how much the individual eats out, where they get their food information from, and other topics. I will be sending this survey out to friends and family in order to receive a broad and distributed sample group. Using the the information I receive, I plan to make more specific and narrowed down surveys in the future to gather more useful data.

Throughout my research while trying to determine what to ask and what to look for in my questions and responses, I came across a very interesting article. “Measuring and Characterizing Nutritional Information of Food and Ingestion Content in Instagram” by Sanket S. Sharma is a study that discusses how social media sites like Instagram have become popular for sharing dining experiences. However, there is a very limited amount of information in the posts discussing nutritional information. They also look into how the community reacts specifically to healthy versus unhealthy food postings. This is something I hadnot even thought to look into.

With one of the biggest trends recently being to actually be healthy and eat correctly, that should be something that is very prevalent on social media. Why is it not?

Some examples of high calorie foods by the Instagram accounts that I follow.

In addition to their main topic, I also enjoyed reading about their methods. The use of hashtags was also very prevalent in their research. They gathered a list of specific tags to collect posts of the nature that they were searching for. They then used Instagram’s API to gather data on the posts. I believe that this could be useful as I continue to research on my topic as well! One difference between their research and mine is their use of “likes” and comments as a way of measuring how the community responds to the posts. Throughout my research, I would like to research the community response through surveys of what makes people actually go to a restaurant. Likes and comments will be nearly irrelevant in my research.