“You Did Not Eat That” – Or thoughts on contrivance and fakeness in today’s society

Few would probably not have heard of the You Did Not Eat That (YDNET) instagram account by now, following the account owner’s feature and interview with New York Magazine’s The Cut last week. YDNET comprises Instagram reposts of thin, good looking women (who mostly look like they’re models) posing with food, and each picture is accompanied by an often snarky caption.

While YDNET has a huge number of followers, it has attracted its share of detractors – as seen from articles here, here and here – who criticise it for being “skinny-shaming”, “food-shaming”, or passing judgement on women and their eating habits based purely on their body shape. I do agree that some of the posts have crossed the line into being bitchy and mean. This for example, is uncalled for, because taking pictures of beautiful patisserie is very common and, like some comments have pointed out, one take photos of food before eating them because it looks nicer that way:

mean

However, many of the criticisms miss the point of the account itself (and yes, YDNET sometimes loses sight of its own objective, like in that post above) which is encapsulated in its description:

“Speaking the truth in this mixed up world of too many macarons and ice cream cones used as props. Because really… youdidnoteatthat@gmail.com”

And when viewed in this vein, some of YDNET’s posts and captions are spot on. Such as these few:

grill

magnum

nacho

sheets

 

I love how these photos are being called out for what they are – people posing, ostensibly with food (because everyone loves the look of food), but with their primary aim being to showcase their hair, clothes, accessories, makeup, manicure, body, etc. And yes – Magum has been on a roll with using models to advertise their new range of ice cream flavours.

The owner of YDNET summed it up well in The Cut’s interview:

“People buy a box of macarons, or doughnuts, or an ice cream. They photograph it in front of some big landmark, like the Eiffel Tower — the trip to Paris is to take pictures across from Ladurée — and there’s always a very calculated stack of rings and bracelets, maybe a French bulldog, and it’s like, Boom, I’ve got a successful Instagram post! … This is not me making some huge social commentary about what size somebody is and what they’re eating. This is more like, Come on, we see the formula… It’s just presenting this curated life that’s beautiful and perfect and totally unrealistic.”

I loved the interview. YDNET’s owner was spot on in identifying issues in today’s society – the contrivance, the curation of our lives, the fakeness of it all. I’ve seen people take multiple shots just to get the perfect selfie to upload. Or I go on Instagram or Facebook and see a photo and think, “It’s so obvious that this person REALLY wanted to show the world this aspect of their life” – that the photo wasn’t a spontaneous bit of fun or snapshot of a memory or even taking a picture of something beautiful for beauty’s sake, but a calculated move to showcase something.

This whole art of contrivance is in so many parts of our lives. Take hipsters for example – with their hair, the beards, the (sometimes) fake glasses. The fact that you can so easily identify a hipster or a hipster [insert noun, e.g. cafe, shop, band] points clearly to how being hipster is all about achieving that look – which this post on how to launch a hipster restaurant illustrates pretty well. I’m not even 30 years old but I remember a time when ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’ were simply what they are – instead of being things to be appropriated as part of a trend or a formula for success.

And when it comes to music, oh my word. Singers – I use this term loosely – are the worst of the lot. Watching the Graham Norton Show every week has taught me loads, and the epitome is Sam Smith, BBC’s Sound of 2014 – just look at his ridiculously quiffed hair, his affectatious style of singing and his attempts to turn his voice into something it’s not or hit notes he can’t quite reach. I’m surprised by now many people there are who think Sam Smith has a beautiful voice and is a great singer – perhaps this song isn’t representative of him but listening to him there certainly did not make me want to see or hear him anywhere else!

When I was in secondary school, people like Sam Smith and hipsters – and many other people around, to be honest – would have been called out for being ‘posers’, with their carefully cultivated image and their huge amounts of effort put into looking and behaving the way they do. Unfortunately, society seems to have reached the stage where being a poser has not only become the norm but has also become the standard by which one is judged – whether you’re cool enough or attractive enough or interesting enough.

And it’s not easy to resist – I find myself doing things, liking stuff and wanting items symptomatic of the times, in spite of my feelings on the matter. But I think self-awareness is the first step towards change, and that things will improve with time and self-reflection. Like YDNET’s owner said:

“I feel like blogs have certainly changed everything, you know, in the lifestyle people are presenting — it’s just spiraled into the absurd. All these girls who wear the most expensive outfit that they have — probably borrowed or gifted. They troll the West Village or Venice, or somewhere, [buying] “chic” lashings from different pastry shops, taking pictures in their Valentino Rockstud Stilettos. Ughhh! I call itThe Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome: Everybody just says, Oh my God, you look amazing. But nobody’s really actually saying, Get real. And we should.”

So let’s get real and get rid of all these fake, contrived nonsense that goes on.

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