While Bronislaw Malinowski maintained that sexuality is the basis of social structure, his pupil, instead, Audrey Richards asserted that food is the real basis of human relationships. To support this idea, from an anthropological perspective, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Mary Douglas would seem to confirm the cultural and social importance of food. Through sociology, food began to be studied from the seventies onwards because of a general interest for the sense of the body, for social practices and rituals. Jean-Pierre Poulain, for example, in his alimentary sociological studies, defined the theoretical construct of “alimentary social space”.
Since Roland Barthes began to analyze food as language, as a symbol of culture and ideology like literature and art, semiotics too with the other human sciences has been investigating different conceptual frameworks of food behavior, stressing the need to study food behavior in context, with a special interest in contemporary postmodern society.
So it is evident that now we are living in an orthorexic society in which virtually everyone, everywhere and always speaks about food. This phenomenon is called foodism and the foodies denote all the people who are obsessed by food.
In this article, a particular type of food obsession is analyzed as a phenomenon strictly connected with digital consumerism and its viral circulation through social networks such as Instagram and Facebook. It is the result of a way of communicating and of staying informed about everyday food habits, recipes or food news thanks to mobile phones which allow us to stay connected. The philosopher Luciano Floridi states we are inforg people, informational organisms interconnected in a global milieu shared by biological organisms and technological instruments. Foodism is analysed in the framework of the semiotics of new media from a semioethic perspective. An important aspect to underline is that this phenomenon is linked to the pervasive use of social networks among digital natives obsessed with sharing media communication forms and models about food in complete “virtual solitude”. This particular need to share food photos is observed from a socio-semiotic perspective. What is involved is the creation of new meaning in new media through semiotic modalities.
Keywords: new media, sociosemiotics, food, identity, society, virality, semioethics.