A Field Guide to Instagram Food Hashtags

A scientific look at the most popular food hashtags, and what they tell the world about you.

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If you've ever fallen down a rabbit hole of strangers’ #ootd ("outfit of the day") or #struggleplates, you know how huge the world of Instagram hashtagging is. That mildly annoying/adorable flood of #TBT that hits your feed every Thursday? That’s 131 million people jumping on a bandwagon that started with some old Polaroids of one guy's sixth-grade brace face.

The scariest part is, those are just the most visible examples. There are thousands of acronyms, cryptic phrases, and nonsense words (#tweegram, anyone?) that people are adding to their photos right now—and sometimes getting tens of thousands of likes for it. There are 14-year-olds out there with more people following their every move than you’ve ever met, and dubious “models” who get dozens of marriage proposals a day—in the comments, of course.

Choose the wrong tags, and you're telling the world that you're a 13-year-old girl who loves Hello Kitty and Pumpkin Spice lattes.

Even in what should be the straightforward genre of food pics, there are distinct subcultures. They find each other by flashing hashtags like gang signs, throwing up #foodporn or #nomnomnom to prove their loyalty to the group. A #foodie would never take a pic of his morning Pop-Tarts, and someone who's always #hungry is never going to compose an artful shot of a single strawberry.

So what's a wannabe food 'grammer to do? Choose the wrong tags, and you're telling the world that you're a 13-year-old girl who loves Hello Kitty and Pumpkin Spice lattes. Choose the right ones, and you'll be admired by millions of your peers, leading to fame, fortune, and a sweet gig as the official photographer of the Mission Chinese empire—or at least a shoutout in our weekly Instagram roundup.

To help you find your true path, we've decoded the most popular food tags out there—who's using them, what they're photographing, and why they do it.

Click to start the list
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