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7 Ways Social Media Impacts Our Relationship With Food


The power we give to food is something remarkable and, so easily, everyone seems to be a food expert simply because they eat. In the advent of social media and even today it was not surprising to see someone rattle off their lunch on Twitter, nod to their new favorite restaurant on Yelp, or showcase the grandiose meal they made for #SundayBrunch on Instagram.”The famed French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin could not be truer in these wired times: Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” (Holmberg, 2014). This food – this power – plays out differently in different corners of the US and yet is so widely visible across social networks that connect the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the young and the old alike. Food through the lens of social media platforms is a blessing and a curse. Here are 7 ways social media impacts our relationship with food.

#1 Expectation vs. Reality

"Food Porn" looks different on my side of town.

"Individuals tend to make diverse food purchasing and dining choices, including where, when, how, and which types of food to acquire" (Chen & Yang, 2014). "By comparing groups of Twitter users who shop in grocery stores to those who dine at fast food restaurants, we found that the prevalence of grocery stores that stock fresh produce within an individual's neighborhood may significantly influence him or her to make nutritious food choices" (Chen, et. al, 2014).

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Chen, X. & Yang, X. (2014). Does food environment influence food choices? A geographical analysis through “tweets”. Retrieved from: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0143622814000733

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#2 Food Safety Education

Public health experts can find teachable moments with foodies online.

"Food safety practices of particular concern included limited appliance thermometer use, unsafe reheating of leftover foods, limited adherence to recommended microwave stand times, failure to separate raw meats from ready-to-eat items while grocery shopping, failure to marinate foods in the refrigerator, failure to adequately cook eggs until they are firm, and irregular hand washing practices. Many of these practices have been found to be common in other studies on the food safety behaviors of young adults (Mayer & Harrison, 2012).

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Mayer, A.B. & Harrison, J.A. (2012). Safe Eats: An Evaluation of the Use of Social Media for Food Safety Education. Retrieved from: https://search.proquest.com/docview/1030965111?accountid=13360&rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo

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#3 #FakeNews: #FoodFacts Edition

Misinformation about health, diets, disease, and vaccines must be combated in an interest to public health - but fear, follower base, and clickbait in media drive fear and #FakeNews. As DeMers shared, 59% of people will share an article (online) without even reading it (2016).

"Fake, misleading and over-interpreted health news in social media is the potential threat for public health; Top links related to common diseases in 40% cases contained misinformation and were shared 451 272 times in the period 2012–2017" (Waszak, Kasprzycka-Waszak & Kubanek, 2018).

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DeMers, J. (2016). 59 Percent Of You Will Share This Article Without Even Reading It. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2016/08/08/59-percent-of-you-will-share-this-article-without-even-reading-it/#ffb51262a648

Waszak, P.M., Kasprzycka-Waszak, W. & Kubanek, A. (2018). The spread of medical fake news in social media – The pilot quantitative study. Retrieved from: https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.lib.purdue.edu/science/article/pii/S2211883718300881

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#4 Body Image

What you see is [not always] what you get.

"Instagram provides an in-built tool that offers a number of possible filters to enhance the appearance of a photo. The use of such filters or other digital alteration techniques represents another important photo-based activity that warrants future research attention" (Holland & Tiggeman, 2015).

"Results from 20 peer-reviewed journal articles provided evidence across different methodologies that [social networking sites] use has been associated with increased body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Furthermore, these results held across gender" (Holland, et al., 2015).

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Holland, G & Tiggemann, M (2015). A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1740144516300912

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#5 The #CheatMeal

Cheat meals provide a health halo to all foods eaten throughout the week (on non-"cheat days") and encourage a relationship with food that characterizes every meal as good or bad, influencing others' evaluation of their own food choices.

"On the first day of data extraction, there were 1,627,379 images with
the #cheatmeal tag on Instagram (Pila, E., Mond, J.M., Griffiths, S., Mitchison, D., Murray, S.B. (2016).

"Notably, just over half of the images (54.5%) displayed volumes of food that were independently deemed, by both members of
the coding team, to represent a volume of food consistent with an
objective binge episode. Caloric estimations ranged from 214 (e.g., slice
of camembert cheese and tablespoon of jam) to 9120 (e.g., two dozen
donuts)" (Pila, E., et. al, 2016).

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Pila, E., Mond, J.M., Griffiths, S., Mitchison, D., Murray, S.B. (2016). A thematic content analysis of #cheatmeal images on social
media: Characterizing an emerging dietary trend. Retrieved from: https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.lib.purdue.edu/doi/pdf/10.1002/eat.22671

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#6 A Chance to Speak UP

Social media amplifies the voice of everyday people from the comfort of their couch meaning that anger, frustration, happiness, and even positivity have the potential to reach a wide audience very quickly... the latter usually at the slowest rate.

Of 711 posts, "Employees contributed one-fourth of all negative posts, and the posts by employees received slightly more comments and likes than the ones by customers" (Guidry, J.M., 2015).

"Among self-identified posters, a post by a fast food company employee tends to generate more comments than a post by a customer. Further, a positive or neutral post tends to generate more likes than a negative one" (Guidry, J.M., 2015).

__________
Guidry, J.M. (2015)From #mcdonaldsfail to #dominossucks: An analysis of Instagram images about the 10 largest fast food companies. Retrieved from: https://www-emeraldinsight-com.ezproxy.lib.purdue.edu/doi/full/10.1108/CCIJ-04-2014-0027

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#7 You Are What You TwEAT

We eat, therefore we must be experts in the kitchen. While many of us will say this can't be true, social media platforms provide an outlet for delicious and terrible recipes to be shared.

Under the guise of Finstagram (Fake Instagram or "Second-life" Instagram Accounts) you wonder, Did the person *really* make what's in the photo or is it a stock photo? Similarly, Rosseau asks, "Is it OK to blog a recipe you found in a cookbook? What is the difference between being inspired by and adapting a recipe?" 2012). The unwritten rules of social media can cause blurred lines for those following along.

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Rosseau, S. (2012). Food and Social Media: You Are What You Tweet. AltaMira Press. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=qerZ7SLf45gC&printsec=copyright&source=gbs_pub_info_r#v=onepage&q&f=false

https://books.google.com/books?id=qerZ7SLf45gC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false

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