"No one cares what you had for lunch" was one of the earliest and stickiest condemnations of social media. Years later and countless photos of food flipped through, social media users by the millions disprove this every day.
Of course someone cares what I had for lunch. I care -- a lot. And the people who follow me on social media are interested in what I care about.
One of the biggest problems in America is obesity, too tightly belted to thoughtless consumption of food we are not proud of. So what's wrong with showing off beautiful food? Isn't this a mindful approach that checks in with those who love us -- in other words the opposite of unconscious overeating?
On Sundays I make brunch for my fiancee and me and post a photo on Facebook captioned "Services at The Church of Brunch." It's part of my Sunday. Recently a Facebook friend I went to high school with and always liked but never knew well left this note on the photo below:
I attend your "services" vicariously every week! I was out walking my dogs this morning and I actually thought "I wonder what Jeff is going to have for brunch this morning?" Looks wonderful, as always.
I invited her and her husband to attend services some Sunday soon.
San Francisco Giants fans have created the meme #Kalepower in honor of outfielder and paleo dieter Hunter Pence. When he homers or makes a diving catch, fans tweet with that hashtag or post photos of kale. On the other end of the health spectrum, the hashtag #cronuts has love-handled posts about indulgence in the croissant/doughnut hybrid gut bomb.
What do all these things have in common? Sincere interest. No one is pretending to be interested in something "important," posting something that will make them look smart, advancing a political agenda, sharing links for work, or being polite. They are being real.
Authenticity is never wrong. Ever.
The biggest problem with social media is not that it's a self-referential waste of time. The problem is not that you are missing life if you're too busy chronicling and sharing it.
The biggest problems facing social media are the problems that have always confronted mass media: Manipulation by big business, government control and surveillance, the dumbing-down of important ideas and mob mentality that rushes to judgement. These are real concerns that require discussion and patient understanding.
Dismissiveness of people sharing the personal and day-to-day is the snobbery of those who don't want to take part. Taking pictures of your food -- or pet, or clothes -- is like square-dancing, playing miniature golf, or charades.
Of course it looks silly. It's fun.
This post was originally published on SFGate.
Jeff Elder is the social media lead for The San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. Follow him on Instagram.