By Liz McCarthy
The world of food has become increasingly entwined with the world of technology. There are game-changing food startups as well as food-finding apps for your mobile device, but what about social networking? Twitter and other platforms have had an immense impact on not only how we eat, but also on how we share the cultural experience of eating with each other.
While blogs have been a popular method for posting pictures and write-ups of excellent food finds for years, Twitter now allows users to post much more quickly and from essentially any mobile device. I can take a snapshot of what I'm eating using my iPhone, upload it instantly using the Twitter app, and maybe add a hashtag (#tacos and #beer, anyone?) to guide the rest of Twitterverse to my Tweet. I even set my Twitter to automatically geo-tag my Tweets so that my followers know where I found those delicious eats.
The benefits are myriad for food vendors, especially small, artisan producers of food who can gain free exposure through Twitter when users "@" them or re-tweet their posts. And as sustainable and local eating are becoming more important in the culinary landscape, social media provides a great opportunity to find food within a specific community. Following one sustainability blogger on Twitter or Facebook, for example, can lead you to hundreds of sources for sustainably-produced food like farmers markets and vegetarian restaurants.
Twitter has especially impacted the food truck and food cart scene in major cities across the US. Most mobile food vendors let customers know where they're located each day through a Twitter feed and gain new followers, both real and virtual, through a totally digital medium.
Food-related social media posts aren't even limited to pictures or restaurant recommendations. Chefs (of both the at-home and professional variety) are now using Twitter and Facebook to share recipes and cooking experiences. In 2009, the New York Times even challenged readers to take the "twecipe" challenge and create condensed versions of recipes to work in a Twitter-friendly format - in just 140 characters or less.
Whether you're checking in to your favorite restaurant on Foursquare, sharing a culinary adventure through your Facebook photos, or re-Tweeting a particularly excellent food blogger's post, social media is helping to connect the food community in ways we've never seen before. Sharing recipes and restaurants has historically remained limited to cookbooks, family hand-me-downs, and newspaper reviews. Now, we can take our personal food experiences and not only share them with friends, but also impart them to the rest of the world. It's incredible to see how the culture of food has changed as the world becomes a more globally interconnected place through technology.