Desert Companion

All for the ’Gram

A few thoughts on life in the digital feed

A young woman wraps her lips around a red-and-white straw. The straw juts from a dessert tower guaranteed to induce a sugar coma if consumed in its entirety. A funfetti cake slice topped with sprinkles, whipped cream, and, of course, a cherry. This is merely the topping for an alcoholic milkshake from Venetian restaurant Black Tap. #Dessertporn, indeed.

If food is part of your Instagram feed there’s a good chance you’ve seen that image or one close to it. An item of food meant to be consumed with the eyes, not the mouth. With a billion users worldwide, Instagram ignites far-reaching trends. Businesses now cater to the need for a pretty background or a visually pleasing plate. The rainbow grilled-cheese at Loftti Cafe and rainbow roulade at Gäbi Coffee & Bakery certainly don’t taste any better than their more plain-looking counterparts. But beige isn’t as enticing in a digital feed. However, as any food stylist can attest, making food camera-friendly has unavoidable ramifications for flavor.

Food and drink are not the only victims of Insta-obsession. Earlier this year, a wedding chapel pop-up at the Palms let you prove your commitment to living your best photographable life. Designed by artist Joshua Vides, this art installation wedded a black-and-white aesthetic with pop-art sensibilities — a Roy Lichtenstein piece come to life in a two-color palette. Oh, and it also married people. The entry-level package titled “Our Marriage Looks Perfect — On Instagram” may be aptly named, but it hops from tongue-in-cheek, over meta, and into ridicule. It’s not clear who the joke is on, Instagram or the consumer. Considering the once indie app is now owned by Facebook, it doesn’t seem like the joke is on them.     

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So far, the most egregious Las Vegas behaviors presented on social media have been reserved for the Strip. There’s no better outlandish backdrop for outlandish behavior, especially for a headache of bachelorette revelers (a group of cats is a glaring, a group of apes is a shrewdness, a group of people wearing matching shirts, hooting, and drinking heavily is a headache). But a new trend among younger Instagram users may push into new territory. Tired of images that blend together in millennial-pink macaron perfection, this audience looks for pictures that signal reality. Showing on social media life as it is — flawed, disorganized, spontaneous — might help undo some of the damage reckless influencers have inflicted.

But what happens when the Strip or Fremont Street are no longer deemed “authentic” or “real” enough? When tables at Mothership Coffee or Soyo are occupied by those looking to capture the “other” Las Vegas? Our Las Vegas. Many locals deal with tourists and their demands daily; it’s part of the job, and they do it with a smile. That smile will be a challenge to maintain if life away from the Strip is also invaded by influencers.

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