Chapter II

Not sure where to begin here… But here goes a personal musing on my digital presence up until now. 

This past year has seen a lot of changes in how I use my account. And as this year comes to an end, I can't help but feel a little nostalgic. Not because I’m unsatisfied with how this year was - in fact, it’s been freaking amazing - but because my one year out of college has been so incredibly transitional and I’m still trying to make sense of my new job as a full-time blogger and influencer. That isn’t to say that I haven’t had some of the most magical experiences of my life during this time. I embarked on my first sponsored trip (of which I have now been on many!), worked on building this website, moved back home to Seoul for a bit, then fell in love with New York all over again and continued to create meaningful relationships with people both on and off Instagram. 

My experience at NYU was unparalleled and an incredible privilege, largely because of this account. What started off as a silly, semi-joke endeavor organically grew into something much bigger than I initially imagined. I’ve been recognized as one of the top food influencers in New York and have worked with some of the most revered brands, restaurants and chefs in this hard-to-break-into industry. I’ve also met pretty incredible people along the way, some of whom have now become my closest friends. It has been a whirlwind experience and I cannot thank you guys enough for following me, appreciating food with me and, most importantly, allowing me to share valuable stories. 

Everyone asks me how I first started @cityfoodie, and the simplified story always goes like this: When I first moved to New York, I ate out a lot. I took photos of what I ate and would then post them on my personal Instagram account. My friends and family grew annoyed at the plethora of food photos on my Instagram and begged me to share more photos of myself and my life in New York. So, I created a separate account without any further intention at all. The handle @cityfoodie was my first choice, and the fact that it had yet to be taken was a good sign. Fast forward four years and this is my full-time job.

The food Instagram world, and the food industry as a whole, was a much different one back when I started this account as a freshman. Instagram and social media have undeniably changed the way we consume, view and think about food, both online and IRL. I can’t say that this has all been positive. Instagram accounts now portray a lifestyle that is largely unattainable, aspirational and, for the most part, unrealistic. Beyond that, there is so much cultural meaning that is lost when people cater to a voyeuristic audience. I’ve gone from loving what I do to growing incredibly frustrated with the entire scene. I’ve always tried to stay away from the pervasive (and quite frankly, god-awful) #foodporn trend to create a community that really appreciates what food is and should be about — being good! Good beyond just taste. Good politically, socially and environmentally. Sadly, this is not the case for most food Instagram accounts and the reality is that these accounts are the ones dictating the food scene in New York today. They are the ones wrongly writing the rules of success for restaurants, arguably one of the hardest businesses in this always-changing city.

I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve watched food being manhandled and wasted just to get that perfect cheese pull or yolk poke. I’ve been embarrassed by my peers (and myself included on some accounts…) standing on chairs in the middle of restaurants or pulling out portable studio lights in dark dining rooms. I’ve run out of excuses to PR agencies who have tried to convince me to sell you guys the latest gross, hybridized food product that I refuse to support. As a result, this past year and a half, I lost a lot of interest in the way I was operating this account and pushed myself to be selective with the places I feature and the brands I work with (even if that meant sacrificing some extra likes and engagement).  The term “influencer” is so flawed because it’s defined largely in the context of consumption and numbers. Education and awareness thus become secondary. 

This post-grad stage of my life, what we recent college graduates refer to as the “real world”, has seen a lot of changes in the way I use this account, which I’m sure a lot of you have noticed. I’ve been wanting to change my handle to my name for a long time now. A part of me would always cringe whenever I said “cityfoodie” out loud, which was ultimately multiple times a day. I have simply outgrown the name and I’m ready for a new chapter. I knew that in order for me to get back into the groove, I needed to grow my brand into something even more personal and unique. The beauty of food is that it sits at the intersection of so many cultural industries, be it art, fashion, travel, technology, activism… All of which I have tried to manifest into my Instagram recently. So, I hope you’ll stay with me as I extend this platform beyond the confines of just food and New York City under my new handle.

Finally, I want to thank all the brands, restaurants, agencies and individuals I’ve worked with up until now for believing in me and the @cityfoodie brand. Your confidence in and desire to work with me has been humbling beyond words. 

As we all know in some form or another, everything is for sale now. Even us. So in this batshit crazy, neoliberal, self-promotional world we find ourselves in now, I am yet another person on the internet asking for your attention hoping that you will find some value in my personal musings, photographs and exploratory tendencies. I promise you, this new chapter will be just as authentic, curious and purposeful as I’ve always intended it to be.

With love + gratitude,
Laura, @laurajung

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