Living : Social media's tormented 'recipe?!' guys. Online, it's easy to forget that developing recipes is work, and it takes time.

Picture him, scrolling Instagram. He slows down for a flash-lit image of pasta on someone's crowded, linen-draped dining table. For a sunlit reel of chickpeas and olives oil breaking down into a golden pulp.

He might not plan to cook these dishes - in fact, he probably doesn't - but each post makes his thumbs tingle. Instinctively, impulsive, he begins to type : recipe? recipe?! recipe??!

You could say that recipe guys represent a major area of growth for reply guys. And anyone can become a recipe guy : You just have to believe that every time you seen an image of food, you're also owed a recipe, then insist on it.

Cooks and recipe developers who share their food on social media can ignore it, or at least try to, but the nagging chorus of ''recipe?!'' is present, and it's reshaping social content in real time.

''Social media was this way to be spontaneous and low-key and casual, out at some point, when I shared parts of my personal life, people started to expect a professionally tested recipe, too,'' said Nik Sharma, a Los Angeles cookbook writer and photographer [ who also contributes to The New York Times ].

Developing a recipe is work, and it takes time. Mr. Sharma never intended to create them for home-cooked dishes he posted informally - say, a quick dinner of fried rice with ketchup he made after a busy day shooting cooking videos and writing his newsletter.

He also didn't want to come across as rude to commenters, or let them down.

''The easiest thing was to go, 'OK, I'm just not going to post what I eat, unless I'm working on the recipe,'' Mr. Sharma said.

He keeps his off-duty cooking private now, drawing a line between what's personal and professional - a challenging exercise for food writers, since the two areas continuously overlap.

Is it work, for example, when you cook dinner for your parents?

The recipe developer Pierce Abernathy started sharing the meals he made for himself and his family during the pandemic, when he moved back in with his parents.

He produced practical cooking videos on Instagram, filled with visual reference points and raw cooking sounds, and included the whole recipe just below in the caption.

''The goal is to build an audience - the core of my business and how I make money is around engagement and numbers,'' Mr. Abernathy said. ''But I don't want it to be a restrictive environment where I can't be myself.''

Like many social-first recipe developers, he plans to start publishing recipes on his own website soon, to monetize and own his content, and worries about how his audience will respond to that change.

Will they have the resolve to leave the post, to go and find the recipe?

Though he occasionally shares ideas and techniques without detailed recipes, like a clean-out-the-fridge salad he made recently, and images entirely unrelated to food, Mr. Abernathy finds that most posts that don't include recipes can be a source of tension.

''And when you do get those comments,'' he said, ''it feels a little demoralising and dehumanising.''

The viewers demand that free recipes appear online without ads, introductions, process shots, context or stories. Without any trace of people behind them.

This unreasonable request has become a damaging cliche, a way of demonetizing the work and dismissing the writers - particularly women who write about cooking for their families.

An animated Maritsa Patrinos comic, published on BuzzFeed in 2018, illustrated the early mood : A cheerful young man scrolls through a post about '' a delicious lasagna recipe,'' and wastes away to a skeleton before he can reach it.

In the years since, that comic has become darkly self-referential - it may as well be about the get-to-the-recipe conversation itself. It never ends.

In the past few months, though, I've come to think of ''recipe?!'' on social media, and of all its brash, insulting little iterations, so the last possible stage of this conversation, a kind of de-evolution with nowhere left to go.

It's a way of treating the people who share their cooking online entirely as products.

But I think it's also a way of becoming less human. Of becoming more like compulsive web extensions, our only mission to scan, to want, to send the same command out into the void, over and over again, on our sad and infinite loops:




The World Students Society thanks author Tejal Rao.


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