Chronicles Social Media Foodie

Chronicles of the Social Media Foodie

Videos across social media do their best to show new places, foods, and restaurants in the most flattering light. While some of these places may be fun to spend an hour or two, or try a new cuisine, sometimes they raise the question – are they really worth it?

In a world immersed in technology, we are constantly consumed and influenced by the content that is displayed across our social media newsfeeds. The videos of recipes and restaurants influence us to try different foods, which at times can be beneficial but also a waste of time.

As a student with a functioning Internet connection, a day does not go by without seeing at least one video advertising a fun new restaurant, and as a student studying abroad in London, England, I realized that most of those interesting-looking places were within easy walking distance, or were just a few stops away on the local subway system.

The first place I tried was the most low-stakes option – Chin Chin Labs, a shop in the touristy Camden Market area that sells nitro ice cream all year round. While I didn’t try their specialty ice cream – it was a February afternoon, just over forty degrees. I did try their hot chocolate, as advertised to me on an Instagram video that I had seen earlier in the week.

The first thing that made me think that Chin Chin’s hot chocolate was going to be as good as social media had made it seem was the line, thirty or thirty-five people deep, that snaked out the door and down the block, forcing patrons to stand outside in the freezing cold. As I waited in line, a dozen or so people left, some of them holding drinks and others with cups of ice cream.

As they were leaving, I asked one couple whether their hot chocolates were worth the wait. One woman, Kara Harris, who lived in another section of London, nodded enthusiastically.

“It’s so good,” she said. “We waited in line for about twenty minutes or so. It’s definitely worth the wait,” said Harris.

Once I finally got inside, the cafe was packed to the brim with people. It seemed that everyone had been drawn in by the hype – maybe they’d seen the same online videos, or they were simply entranced by the line.

When I finally made it to the front of the line, I ordered my hot chocolate with marshmallows. The order that, according to Facebook, was ‘life-changing’ and ‘the best thing they’d ever tasted.’

The first step to this evidently magical hot chocolate was a generous pouring of constantly stirred hot chocolate. Next, a giant scoop – about the size of a typical chunk of ice cream – of marshmallow fluff, handmade in the shop, which was then toasted with a small flamethrower, like one that would be used to make creme brûlée. It was followed by a dusting of cocoa powder and then a small square of chocolate, bearing the name and logo of the café.

While the café certainly deserved points for preparation and presentation, it certainly wasn’t the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had (that honor belongs to one that I had in a coffee shop in Copenhagen, which was topped with whipped cream and small shards of caramel). While it had all of the elements to be good, it was almost too much. The scoop of marshmallow, while reminiscent of the marshmallows that belong on s’mores, was too much – I could barely finish half of it. The hot chocolate itself was also a bit too thick, sharing the consistency of hot fudge than a drink.

However, for only four pounds (about five dollars), it was worth it. It tasted good but this excursion was overwhelming, and the crowded atmosphere made ordering a drink more stressful than it should have been.

The second place that I went to was also in Camden Market. This one I had been told to visit due to its wild variety of breakfast cereal. The Cereal Killer Café, the walls were lined with different kinds of cereal, from all eras and all countries.

This place was much less crowded, and it was much larger, about four times the size of the Chin Chin Labs. The doors and windows of the entrance were covered in postcard-size selfies and photos of those who had visited prior, and a giant neon sign listed off some of their most preferred cereal brands.

Decorated with a neon-retro vibe, the place had a variety of mixed and matched tables, chairs, and other bits of furniture. None of it quite matched, which made for an interesting and almost kitschy aesthetic. Unlike the Chin Chin café, I hadn’t been recommended a particular item – instead, the Internet had just pointed me towards the location for the aesthetic and variety.

“This place is fun,” said Samantha Roth, a student studying abroad in London. “I don’t think I’d come back, but it’s a fun touristy place and I’m glad I at least took the time to visit.”

I wound up trying a cereal that I had never heard of, apparently from Japan, with an unpronounceable name and chocolate coating. It was good, but nothing particularly special. The cafe was mostly highlighted online for its aesthetic, variety, and the play on words in its title.

Both places were good, and worth their prices, if not as picture-perfect as the Internet had made them appear. Chin Chin was too chaotic and almost too flavorful, though it had many satisfied customers and clearly was very successful. The Cereal Killer Cafe had never been somewhere that I had been optimistic for, so any good things were a pleasant surprise.

Back across the Atlantic, here at Monmouth there are many restaurants that depend on social media for their influx of business. Playa Bowls, Coney Waffle, Broad Street Dough Co., and The Bagel Nook are a few businesses that became extremely popular amongst students due to their prevalent presence on social media.

Nicole Gallagher, a sophomore psychology student said, “My social media has influenced me to try some of the local business near Monmouth. I would have to admit that I think Playa Bowls is overrated. But, Broad Street Dough Co. is my favorite doughnut shop. I think that businesses with a strong social media presence either live up to the hype or just end up being a disappointment. Either way, I am more inclined to try their food from what I see on social media.”

Social media is constantly promoting businesses and products to users. As a consumer population, we do not challenge the information that is presented to us but we accept it. Therefore, if Facebook is telling us we have to try a new restaurant, we are more inclined to believe it and want to try it.

Specialist Professor of communication, Mary Harris speaks about how social media inspires users to try new cuisines, “A few years ago, I was influenced to try the restaurant Seed to Sprout in Avon, NJ because of social media posts and a promo video I saw featuring their organic food. I am glad I did give it a try, despite not knowing anyone at the time who could recommend the eatery one way or another. The food was exceptional. Social media is a modern form of word-of-mouth, so it greatly influences the restaurants we learn about and are willing to visit,” said Harris.

While not all restaurants or food fads will live up to everything social media promised they were, they are typically pleasant visits, and certainly worth the time to go out of your comfort zone and expand your palette.