Picture this. You’re out to lunch with your friends on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. You’re all chatting away, catching up with one another when your waitress approaches your table with your food. Once she leaves, the conversation that flowed so naturally comes to a halt. You peer around the table to acquire approval and quickly whip out your phone. Perhaps you’ll opt for a classic bird’s-eye view shot of just the contents on your plate whether it's a slice of avocado toast or some linguini with pesto. Maybe you’ll choose to incorporate your friend’s salad and iced tea for a more all-inclusive feel. After you snap a few photos and select an appropriate filter that brings out both the colors and textures of your food, one of your friends announces, “Okay, I’m going to eat now.”

Does any of this sound familiar?

On a recent trip to New York City with a fellow Spoonie (hey, Mor), I visited a couple of well-known downtown Manhattan eateries — both of which typically show up on listicles ranking the most Instagram-worthy food spots. While we didn’t go to these restaurants solely for the photo ops, the fact that these places attract a significant amount of social media attention piqued our interests and ultimately my curiosity in "foodstagramming." So, let’s get to it.

Stop #1: Pietro Nolita

The first location on our foodie agenda was healthy Italian restaurant and self-proclaimed “unique pink jewel box,” Pietro Nolita

As you walk down Elizabeth Street, you’ll be able to spot this place right away with its millennial pink vestibule adorned with bright white sunbursts adjacent to a black door scattered with graffiti hearts. S’cute.

Brianna Ruback

Once you walk into the restaurant, you'll then realize what its website means by “pink jewel box” with everything from the booths to the bar being a shade of pink. Resembling a 1950’s-style diner, Pietro Nolita’s atmosphere is fun, whimsical and Barbie-like, just begging to appear on your Instagram feed. And evidently, the restaurant’s prayers are being answered.

After ordering my meal, I noticed two girls sitting to my right taking pictures of each other with the food they ordered. As this minutes-long lunchtime photoshoot progressed, my mind was full of questions. I thought, "Isn’t their food getting cold? How will she make her split pea soup look attractive? Is that girl going to take an actual bite out of her crostini or just pretend to do it? Because I'll gladly take one off her hands." I was a bit #hangry, to say the least.

Once the waiter placed my food in front of me, I picked up my sandwich, ready to devour it, completely forgetting that I was in one of the most Instagrammable restaurants in NYC.” *gasps*

I was hesitant, but I went along with the restaurant's crowd. I slid my phone out of my coat pocket and hovered it above my lunch. But how did one make a grilled chicken sandwich look impressive and awe-inspiring? Was a grilled chicken sandwich even something you take pictures of? And who of my Snapchat "friends" would find it interesting that I was eating a grilled chicken sandwich?

I was hungry. I couldn't get a good angle. And ironically, I felt a little bit self-conscious about engaging in this behavior that the rest of the teens and 20-somethings in the restaurant proceeded to do. After deciding that my sandwich wasn’t worthy enough for my Snapchat (which obviously only delivers the highest quality content), I decided to actually eat my lunch.

Halfway through my less-than-majestic-looking meal, I saw that the girls at the next table over had barely made a dent in their food. 75 percent of the bowl of soup was unfinished and half of the crostini were left over. I wondered if they didn’t like what they ordered. “At least we got the pictures,” I overheard one of them say.

That caught my attention, and it got me thinking. Why are we so quick to take photos of our food before knowing if we'll actually enjoy what we’re about to consume? Do we think people care about what we’re eating? Is a restaurant visit ever complete without some form of visual documentation? And if the food isn't great, but still holds a spot on our social media feed, does that mean we're putting up some sort of facade? Perhaps not if the caption is something like "These cupcakes were totally inedible, but look at how aesthetically pleasing they are." But how often are people so blunt when they're trying to make their lives seem, quite literally, picture-perfect?

Social media has been compared to an individual's personal "highlight reel." With its rise came this ever-so-present need to craft one’s life into something exciting. Whether someone is looking to gain validation, reinvent their identity or “build their brand,” social media has become the go-to medium. And why shouldn’t it be? We live in a digital world. While using social media for these purposes isn’t inherently bad, there’s an element of dishonesty that comes along with manipulating photos and contriving scenarios solely for the ‘gram.

If I really wanted to portray an incredibly accurate depiction of my life, I would be posting pictures of myself writing academic papers, binge-watching episodes of Friends and I don’t know, incessantly applying chapstick? But who really wants to see that?

Stop #2: Dominique Ansel Bakery

Following our lunch, we decided to stop for dessert. After a quick Google search, we made our way toward Dominique Ansel Bakery — a highly publicized Soho dessert hotspot best known for its cronut, which was invented in 2013 by the bakery's owner and world-renowned pastry chef, Dominique Ansel. Other popular menu items include the chocolate chip cookie shot and “Blossoming Hot Chocolate.”

Since it was approximately 27 degrees outside, I thought the hot chocolate would be apropos. Plus, I had seen videos of this drink and its blooming marshmallow flower on different food Instagram accounts, so I assumed it had to be good. Where else do food and drink get clout these days?

When the man behind the counter called out my name, I noticed that the marshmallow wasn’t in the cup. He was holding it with a pair of miniature tongs and appeared to be waiting for something. “Don't you want to get a picture?” he asked me, as if this was a routine question. “Oh, right,” I said sheepishly before I took a couple photos and a video of the folded marshmallow flower expanding in the homemade hot chocolate. I have to say, it was pretty neat — and intriguing enough to post on my Snapchat story.

Why did I post it though? What kind of response was I looking to evoke from my Snapchat "friends?" Was I even looking to get a response? Maybe I just wanted my life to seem a little bit more fascinating than it actually is, and you know, add another "highlight." Because what’s more thrilling than an artistic hot beverage?

As I sipped on the hot chocolate, I noticed two girls next to me having a photo session with multiple gorgeous desserts. I'm talking #foodporn. “She’s a blogger,” one girl informed us as she took pictures of her friend doing different poses with her chocolate caramel mousse cake and cherry almond biscotti cronut.

I found it kind of funny that this person who I didn’t know gave me an explanation. If her friend wasn’t a blogger, would photographing her food be any less socially acceptable? Did she feel self-conscious about the dessert photoshoot and think that justifying the behavior lessened any feelings of judgment she perceived she was getting. I mean, minutes before, I was taking photos of a paper cup filled with hot chocolate, so who was I to judge?

The foodstagram culture is taking our day-to-day lives by storm. Whether it’s swaying where you choose to eat, influencing your decision on what to order at a restaurant or suspending the comfortable flow of socialization with your mealtime company, social media’s impact on daily life has become so pervasive that it’s often disrupting the natural order of the way we go about our days.

While there is nothing wrong with posting pictures and videos of your food, there is something to be said for the power of social media and how it's changed our relationship with food. Spontaneity is reduced, so we can stage exactly how we want our lives and the food we eat to appear to others. We're frequently on the prowl for the coolest or healthiest or prettiest thing to support the self-image we're trying to convey. This, in turn, can prevent us from living in the present moment. Some restaurants have even gone as far as banning customers from taking pictures of their food, since it's become such a distraction.

While I love scrolling through food Instagram accounts and could probably do it for hours if I allowed myself, there’s a difference between using social media as a food appreciation channel and posting pictures of food as a means of obtaining positive affirmation. With the extensive reach that social media platforms have, there is ample opportunity to draw attention to other important food issues, as food is something that connects people.

I don’t see foodstagramming going away anytime soon, and I can’t say I want it to. Food is delicious. It's beautiful. It’s something to be excited about. And above all, it's a necessity to which we can all relate. Taking a couple pictures isn’t harmful. But when it impedes on the way you would typically eat or interferes with your social interactions, then that’s a different story. As a general rule of thumb, it's best to stay mindful. Ensure that you're not spending too much time getting that perfect shot of your cappuccino. Be aware of how your actions affect the people around you. And make sure your food is feeding more than just your social media. You don't want to only be #eatingfortheinsta.