Taking pictures means you're doing it right
As someone who has held my fair share of tableside photo shoots with a slice of avocado toast, I’ve never been happier to read a scientific study than this one. It turns out that people who take photos of experiences enjoy them more than those who are strictly photo-free, contrary to what all the haters might think, and that extends to brunch as much as vacations. Researchers from several different universities collaborated on the study “How Taking Photos Increases Enjoyment of Experiences,” which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology last week. They looked at the effect of taking pictures on a cell phone while eating a meal and found that “taking photos causes individuals to enjoy a mundane experience more than when they do not take photos,” and taking a photo increases engagement in the experience, which “in turn heightens enjoyment.”
I am one of those constant Instagrammers who’s super stoked on documenting every brunch, and I’ve never understood the folks who believe that whipping out a cell phone at brunch is a cardinal sin, that the act of taking a picture will irrevocably distract you and your dining companions from the meal at hand. So this new research feels like sweet vindication, proof that I’ve been doing brunch right the whole time.
Of course I’m guilty of posting a #notsohumblebrag every once in awhile—of some truly decadent dish at some bougie, hard-to-get-into restaurant—but more often than not, I like these photos for more sentimental reasons. Setting up to take a picture is a way for me to pause and appreciate the plate in front of me. Besides, space on Instagram is precious, and by the time I’m busting out my phone to snap a picture of the scene laid out in front of me, I’ve already come to the conclusion that this moment, this meal, meant something important.
That’s why I bristle when people criticize taking photos of food as a self-indulgent practice, that no one cares about my dumb, vapid photos on social media, because more often than not, it’s not even the food itself that I truly value in these shots. The pictures of what I’m eating are a way for me to remember the meals that might other get lost in the mundane shuffle of memory. I want to remember that one time I played hooky from work and enjoyed a hilarious brunch that was only made more luxurious by the fact we were drinking cheap white wine on a weekday afternoon, and a picture of the leftover mussel shells is a quick way to do that. A photo of a banging açai bowl that garnered 23 likes on Instagram reminds me how lonely I was when I was living in Seoul, how I wished I had someone else with whom to share that perfectly arranged dish. The artisanal peanut butter toast I ate on a Sunday morning in Washington, DC, makes me think about how lucky I was to be able to spend time with my best friend from childhood after I had broken up with my boyfriend of three years, that I still had her in my life even as other relationships come and go.
There’s a beauty in capturing these mundane moments that might otherwise go forgotten. Taking a picture, framing it well, and even editing it to post online forces you to be appreciative of what, and who, are in front of you.
Taking a couple of minutes at the beginning of a meal to take a photo can be frustrating for waiters and other diners, and that sometimes, I might look silly crouching over the table trying to get the perfect angle. But at the end of the day, I believe Instagramming pictures of my brunch is worthwhile, because it gives me a moment to appreciate the moment as it’s happening, and now I can tell the haters that science agrees with me, too.