The Internet came into existence in the 1960’s, but the real advance of the Internet began only in the 1990’s. That was the time when the Internet spread like wildfire and truly started connecting people to each other and to the world. The rate of this penetration was almost staggering, and thus began what we now call the “Internet Revolution.”
A few years down the line, with the growth of social media giants like Facebook and beginning of the “era” of Google, the Internet became a focal point in our lives. Today, we cannot imagine our lives without the Internet. And anything that is so important to us is bound to have a great impact on almost every sphere in our lives – including what, where, when, and how we eat. And that is exactly what has happened.
The Internet revolution and the growing influence of social media in our lives have completely changed the way we eat and perceive food. In my opinion, some of these changes are impacting our society for the better, but there are also certain troublesome things about our obsession with the Internet.
Here are some pros and cons which the Internet revolution has, according to me:
Information is now at your fingertips.
The Internet has definitely made our lives simpler. Say you have 24 hours to spend in a new city and you want to experience the best that it has to offer within that time. What would you do? Go to Google for help, obviously.
And once you decide which places you want to visit, you’ll go back to Google again – this time for the right directions. That is how simple things have become, thanks to the Internet.
Before we had Internet access, we were completely dependent on television to provide us knowledge about foods from across the world. Today, all this information is just a click away. And not just general information about the local food, but also recipes mostly unheard of before, fun food facts, tips on foods hacks, healthy living and what not. Today, almost 90% people go online to search for recipes.
People have realized the power of technology and so the focus is shifting towards combining food and technology for greater sustainability.
“One person’s online suggestion to try a Korean hamburger or a peppermint mocha latte — or more powerful, one person posting an appetizing-looking photo of the same — can reach thousands of people in a day,” writes Harvey Hartman, Founder and Chairman of The Hartman Group. That is the power of the Internet.
Many major enterprises are also bringing more focus upon improving food experiences using technology. Cisco, along with THNK.ORG, has started an initiative called “Internet of Food” to bring food and Internet technology together and solve some major food-related issues like ensuring food safety throughout supply chain. You can find out more about this initiative on Cisco’s blog.
The Internet brings us together in our struggles and promotes health like nothing else.
Another major benefit of the growth of the Internet is the way it is connecting people and making them realize that they are not alone in their hardest battles. People are coming out in large numbers to help each other with problems like eating disorders and raising a common voice against things like fat-shaming and skinny-shaming. This is empowering our global community like never before.
Nothing promotes healthy eating and a healthier lifestyle like the Internet. It is our go-to resource for all kinds of information on healthy superfoods, foods that burn calories and foods that add more calories.
Data collected online is being used to make the customer experience better.
Data mining is being increasingly used by those involved in the food industry to improve customer experience, increase efficiency and even come up with new innovative recipes.
IBM actually created a computer program that creates original recipes in just 5 steps. Wired.com and FoodNetwork.com observed the buzz that has developed around bacon and completed a data mining project to see if bacon really does make food taste better. Hot-shot food chains also continuously refer to analytics to stay at the top of their game.
The Internet does have its benefits, but there are also some influences I personally don’t appreciate much.
We are losing our spontaneity because of our increasing dependence on the Internet.
When was the last time you visited an unknown place without checking its rating on some popular restaurant review website? Where did the spirit of being adventurous go?
Our generation has grown so used to the comforts technology provides, that we have forgotten what it feels like to take risks and learn from experiments.
Our perception of food is being influenced by online trends.
First, let us start with the way the Internet has skewed our perception of “good” food. Nothing we cook will ever be good unless it is Insta-worthy. Nobody seems to care about how good something might taste because everyone is busy paying attention to whether they can share it on Instagram or not.
#Foodporn is great and so is focusing on the presentation of your plate, but putting the spotlight primarily on that is stealing the limelight from the real essence of food – its taste and its aroma. Something that looks okay might taste much better than something that looks beautifully decked up… you never know.
Online marketing is highly misleading and there’s nothing much we can do about it.
Let us not even start talking about how misleading online marketing can be. All of us have been conned at least once with a product that looks way better on our laptop screens than it is in real life.
Things get worse when it comes to food – you can’t touch it, feel it, smell it or taste it. The only option you have is to believe what the advertisements say and this handicap is precisely what marketers use to their advantage. As a result, the focus shifts more towards building solid marketing strategies rather than creating good and healthy products.
And don’t even think about buying medicines online from just any website. I don’t exaggerate when I say that even governments warn against that.
The viral speed at which trends spread, even if they do not make much sense.
Another major problem with this entire concept is the speed at which a trend spreads. Most people end up following what’s “in” without even properly thinking it through. Why? Because every else online seems to be doing it too.
An example of this is the introduction of the “Selfie Spoon.” Do we need to take pictures of ourselves as we eat? I don’t think so. But this product was still introduced and customers will buy it, because it sounds “cool.”
A recent South Korean trend called Mukbang, which focused on eating large quantities of food at once, was also criticized by a lot of people and for all the right reasons. But the mere fact that it became a trend is enough to prove that the Internet has more influence over us than we’d like to believe.
We sometimes become ignorant of places with not-so-good reviews.
I admit I am as guilty as any of you about relying too much on the Internet to guide me to the best places in my city. But sometimes I am compelled to take a step back and think – why am I killing the buzz that spontaneity brings? Why am I relying on the opinion of others, when I have the option of going around on my own and forming my own opinions about the places I find? Why is a place that doesn’t have good ratings on my favourite review website not worth a try?
Sometimes, by simply avoiding the noise other people create on social media, you might find some great hole-in-the-wall places no website could ever tell you about.
The Internet is killing the regional diversity of food.
World-renowned chef David Chang put the blame of lack of variation in food these days on the Internet. According to him, everything tastes the same and it is all because of the Internet. And it is true, if you think about it. Everyone in the world now refers to the Internet for recipes, and in this process, the dish ends up losing its real essence because everyone is now cooking pretty much the same thing.
Whether positively or negatively, the Internet is surely changing the way we eat, one day at a time. And what we need to learn is to make the most of it but not let it take over our lives completely.