I very much live up to this stereotype. But why? I certainly can’t speak for the group. I can only speak from my own experience and anecdotes from friends to try to shed some light on our obsession and its implication.
- We love cutesy displays of joy. Remember those booths that you squeezed in with your BFFs to make cutesy poses and take photos on stickers? The fad started in Japan and took the entire Asia by storm. I guess that was pre-web 2.0 Instagram. For some reason, our aesthetics are prone to sweetness and cuteness. We also love staging and capturing those magical moments in a snapshot. Have you seen wedding photos in China and people wearing matching ‘lovers’ sweaters? They are a badge that declares the status of happiness.
- We love eating and there’s plenty of places to eat. The most photo-worthy food needs to tell a story of where you are, what you are eating, why you’re eating, etc. The variety, diversity and backstory of food in China make it possible and fun. In that sense, the act of documenting our meals is somewhat similar to Anthony Bourdain making a TV show travelling around the world to eat, explore and share.
- This point is quite personal, but for many Chinese suffering from decades of being closed off from the world and even other regions in China, the freedom of eating food from different places and cultures means much more than just the food. I think there’s void in the collective psyche even for relatively young people who lived through lean years as kids. Food is your passport to travel gastronomically to different places without leaving where you are. And when the travel really does happen, it’s all the more special. Although Chinese tourists are flocking abroad in recent years, it’s still a relative privilege. Those who make the trip broadcast their experiences through food. It makes for great story telling and social capital.
- There’s not a whole lot that the Chinese can share freely on social media. Food seems to be a safer bet.
I’ll end with my own food photos. A montage of places and flavors that I experienced for the first time.