Instagram had reason to give thanks last week – more than 10 million reasons, in fact. Thanksgiving marked the busiest day in the social network’s two-year history. Users posted more than 10 million holiday-related photos Nov. 22, Instagram reported on its blog. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., photos were updated at the hunger-inducing rate of more than 200 per second.
Instagram’s user base has more than doubled since Facebook announced its plans to buy it in April 2012, according to Techcrunch. But long before the start-up’s big acquisition, Instagram and food went together like turkey and gravy. More than 19 million of the site’s photos bear the simple hashtag #food, according to the Instagram browser Statigram. In October, a New York City restaurant launched an “Instagram menu” to encourage customers to take more pictures of the food. Foodily, a recipe search app, recently redesigned along the same lines.
Those changes don’t always go down easy — both ordinary users and social media pundits have taken issue with the number of plates in their feeds. “In the future, sociologists will look back at this trove of poorly lit food photos and reason that Planet Earth was populated by people who believed in the existence of Food Gods,” wrote humorist Luke Zaleski in an August GQ post, joining the chorus of users complaining about hyper-saturated blueberries and tilt-shifted pie.
So what is the appeal of the filtered food pic, anyway? It could just be the visual nature of the medium. Pinterest, another image-driven platform, is heavy on the quiche and cupcakes, too.
But there might be another, more abstract explanation. In a New York Times article last week, Rutgers communications researcher Mor Naaman notes that social media users love to convene around universal experiences. (Consider the current popularity of the Twitter hashtag #20ThingsIDontLike, a sentiment everyone can relate to.) That could also explain Instagram’s Thanksgiving glut: Even if their filters make them ugly or annoying, there are few things more universal than a yummy meal.