Oat milk is sexy, whole milk is what your granddad drinks. Fast food chains offer plant-based options beyond fries and dressing-drenched salads, and scrambled eggs can come from sources other than birds. 

There’s a market for vegan goods. As exemplified byThe Economist’s predictionthat 2019 would be “The Year of the Vegan,” this diet or lifestyle, depending on your form of investment,has undoubtedly increased in popularity. 

Despite the growing consensus that leather is bad and Siete’s cashew queso is pretty good, there’s a level of stigma that seems to follow veganism wherever it goes, especially to social media. In some ways, online promotion encourages participation;studies prove the more veganism is discussed on social media, the more vegan products are purchased. But social media portrayal of veganism can also have adverse effects on the campaign. 

There’s a section of vegan social media influencers consisting of lean, white women who live on islands or vacation frequently, maintain lush gardens, and have kids who surf. Embodied by colorful smoothie bowls and salads in absurdly large wooden bowls, their lifestyle is idyllic.

It is also inaccessible to many people. Those who work long hours, hold fatiguing jobs, have to take care of loved ones, face health issues, etc., may not have the time or facilities to grow vegetables. Many cannot afford, in time or money, to make the number of grocery runs needed for fresh produce. It is a privilege to buy a spiralizer and turn zucchini into noodles with a homemade nut-sauce that’s acceptable to young picky-eaters. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone can be bothered. 

It is, of course, not wrong for people to partake in this form of veganism if they can manage it. Who wouldn’t want to eat fresh fruit in a tropical backyard? 

But the aestheticism of this lifestyle may be harming the vegan campaign itself. It appears out of touch with reality, with little self-awareness of the privilege involved. Bikini photos with inspirational “be you” quotes or emoji-filled paragraphs about zodiac signs may lead to stereotypes about who participates in veganism and what it entails. 

Posts can feel ironic and messages can seem superficial when a caption about reconnecting with nature, spirituality and mindfulness also includes a promotion for a $600 Vitamix blender. Expensive kitchen appliances aren’t the antithesis of mindfulness, but it makes one wonder what the purpose of these vegan accounts are.

Is it to spread information about the vegan lifestyle and encourage participation? Or is it to show off an idealistic lifestyle and make money off brand partnerships? Can it be both at once? It’s not wrong for influencers to use their platform to make a living, nor is it wrong for them to live the seemingly lavish lifestyle they do. But it’s also easy to see why such social media presences and online portraits may be harming the spread of veganism, rather than aiding it.