The term “eating habit” refers to why and how people eat, which food they eat and with whom they eat, as well as the ways people obtain, store, use and discard food. There are many factors that have an effect on humans’ eating habits, such as individual preferences, cultural, religious, economic, environmental and political influences. In the cyber world, the biggest factor that has a strong impact on people’s eating habits, is social media platforms. Besides the traditional media means, such as television channels, newspapers or magazines, new social media and online resources, like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and so forth, are fast becoming a daily activity for everyone, especially the young generation. We are sharing everyday experiences with friends, family, and even with the whole world out there. Eating definitely is one of those experiences that millions of people all around the planet are sharing, posting their food, meals or diets on the social media platforms. However, does posting photos, videos, links related to healthy food, recipes influence influence the eating habits of people? This chapter presents the literature and studies related to the present research to help answer the problems of the study.
Social media has been coming a hot new subject recently. It is considered a potential environment not only for business activities but also for academic research because it involves billions of people in their daily life. Thus, many researchers and innovators are spending their effort to explore this promised land. However, my research focuses on the relationship between social media and healthy eating habits which is very fresh matter and there is a limited number of studies in this field. The number of studies done on this subject is not so high, so I had some struggles in searching for relevant literature at the beginning. It took me quite some time before I found four articles and literature relevant for my research. Four authors with four different ways of discussing eating habits and social media, but they all meet each other at two points: they are all experts in diet and nutrition and their research indicates that the influences of social media platforms on eating diets are real and their impacts in one way or another are undeniable. The following review of literature confirms that social media platforms are influencing the way people are eating and cooking in both good and bad ways. And the main viewpoint of the authors will be the solid point of support for my hypotheses.
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2.2 Food and the society in the age of digital reproductionThere is no one on this planet can live without food, even though somebody could say they are not a big fan of food or not very into eating, but the fact that they still need to eat to survive. From million years ago, the connection between human being and food was created and till now that connection is still very strong and seems like it is not going to change. However, the relationship between food and the society is not just as simple as you eat food just to keep you alive. In the book “Food, Media, and Contemporary Culture: The Edible Image”, Bradley (Ed) (2016) comprises a collection of essays written by scholars from the fields of media theory, communication, cultural studies, and sociology, and offers interdisciplinary and international perspectives on the vital and meaningful relationship that we have with “rituals of preparing, presenting and consuming food and images of food”. Bradley (2016) reveals “how the concept of food is used to express numerous facets of personal, national and global identity” and gives readers ideas about the relation to social parity and its representation in the media. The authors effectively explore how the depiction of food, visualization of the act of eating, and the sensuality of consumption impact the ways in which we perceive ourselves and our position in society. Engaging with food and food imagery on multiple levels—as viewers, consumers, or culinarians—we construct and refine the perception of who we are, as, for example, in observing “manners and rules, which in the UK are closely related to the notion of class.” (Fell, 2017).With thirteen chapters of the book, the authors interrogate various aspects of gastronomy, with their discussions gravitating toward the central issue: What role does gastronomic culture play in forming our identities on personal, national, and global levels? Among those thirteen chapters, I give the special notice for the last chapter which called “Food Porn: The Conspicuous Consumption of Food in the Age of Digital Reproduction”; because the notion of food porn is going viral in recent years with not only While investigating representations of social class and gender, among other themes, via food and modes of consumption, the researchers draw on various sources, including the phenomenon of “food television” in the United Kingdom, “food-themed horror,” and “visual aesthetics of food porn in contemporary food photography.” (Fell, 2017). In this chapter, McDonell – the author, considers the essay as a cultural analysis of the voyeuristic practice and the application of a pornographic visual aesthetic to food, as reproduced in still photography and popularized through the Internet network of food blogs. In the age of digital reproduction, according to McDonell, mechanical or electronic reproduction dis-imbeds the consumption of the food object from the tradition and context of its original production. This enables the food-as-image to travel to places the original could not: anyone from anywhere on this earth can visually consume the work of a three Michelin star French chef. The connection between the society and the world’s cuisine is getting stronger than before; and the way they care about food appearance brings the professional and amateur in food production closer than usual.In the essay, McDonell (2016) indicates the food blogging community of the twenty-first century drew together various elements of the pre-digital professional food production community – existing cookbook authors, chefs, restaurateurs, food photographers and stylists – looking to make sense of the newly emerging media and its potential impact on their livelihoods. This professional element mingled with a large selection of amateur food bloggers, including idle hobbyists, stay-at-home moms, fans cooking through their favorite cookbooks and more. Therefore, the lines between amateur and professional increasingly blurred, as amateur bloggers consumed and imitated the style of professional blogging food photographers. Especially, in social media platforms, everyone has equal chance to public their products on the Internet and if it is enough quality for the online society, it will go viral and be known by millions of people who are users of those platforms. McDonell (2016) writes in his essay, sites like Instagram and Pinterest principally rely on visual representations for curating the vast and unwieldy content of the Internet, replacing the early internet conventions of text-based links with a system that automatically privileges images as representing the content behind the link. This had the effect of putting a premium on the visual attractiveness of images to garner ‘click’- the ubiquitous currency of attention in the Internet – an further helped the diffusion of a dominant style of visual aesthetic now commonly known as ‘food porn’. The reason makes me want to focus on the chapter number thirteen and its study about ‘food porn’ because taking beautiful pictures about good food or making pleasure videos of cooking the tasty recipes play a very important role on social media platforms nowadays. Without these food photographs, audience will not have able to find themselves visiting favored food photography sites just to browse page after page of food which according to McDonell (2016), is hypnotic and addictive. The author also makes a comparison, like the stereotypical consumer, glued to the Internet’s vast array of human sexual pornography, the consumer of food porn is helpless before the object of their visual addiction. Each photo delights, and yet it is enough, they always want more. This leads to the action that they want to try the food and have idea that they will cook that dish; and from that point of view they create the relation between the food, eating habits on the social media platforms with the real society. 2.32 Changing eating habits on social media – a global trend
Holmberg (2014) says one of the most prominent social revolutions in recent times is the boom of social media. In order to realize the relationship between food and social media, one needs to fully consider the word social in social media. Acknowledging that eating has to be seen as a social activity means that understanding its social context and delineations is integral when trying to comprehend food and eating patterns. Holmberg’s article points out that the number of food blogs, food forums or food groups in the online social networks is enormous and joining these forms of communication is very easy. Depending on the subject matter they vary according to both how food and eating are presented and portrayed. While blogs dedicated to exercise view food as fuel and vitamin packages, people following recipe blogs tend to emphasize the pleasure and indulgence associated with eating. The food community one belongs to can, therefore, be seen as a strong marker for one’s identity. Hence, the classic phrase by 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.” The idea that what you eat is what you are can potentially imply a big change for billions of people. They start to think about the food they choose, the meals they eat; because of that their eating habits start to change as well.
Holmberg (2014) believes there is an important note that social media is not a single thing, but a constellation of tools and technologies that support peer-to-peer conversation and user-generated content. This enables the social and cultural aspect of food consumption and dietary practices to improvecurlicue. Unlike specialized eaters, humankind is capable to thrive on a multitude of diets, lacking inherent predilections for things that are healthy. That is why culture and societal norms become the main aspect dictating our eating behavior. Thus, social meanings and metaphors of food can direct dietary choices and determine what type of food confers social acceptance. Talking aboutRegarding the changes in people’s eating habits on social media platforms which relevant to the social and cultural phenomenon, Holmberg says the meaning of food and diets are in constant transformation because it relevant to the social and cultural phenomenon. The digital revolution, comprised of constant connectivity and the advent of smartphones, can be seen as another such societal transformation. It reformed the way we approach food permanently; our food culture has become digitized.
2.43 Impacts of Social Media on How People View Nutrition2.43.1 Bright side: create a better awareness about good eating habitsVogel (2016) and Tandoh (2016) are two different authors from two different countries; one from the United States and the other from the United Kingdom, respectively;, but they have the same viewpoint about social media’s impact on people’s diets. Tandoh (2016) starts her article on The Guardian newspaper by showing some statistics (from the annual Waitrose food and drink report) which says people are sharing more food on the online world than ever before, and a huge amount of this hungry, food-centric media revolves around food photography and short videos on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and many more. She cites the annual Waitrose (an online grocery shopping site) food and drink report that points out that one in five people in Britain have shared a food photo online or with their friends in the past month, and she herself owns a food blog where she posts food pictures online. People are using social media to share a part of their life with other people – and food, obviously, is an essential bit of those activities. The author emphasizes the role of social media platforms in changing people’s food choices. Once the social media-friendly foods go viral, they can completely change the way we eat. She takes the example of breakfast on the Internet which has shifted from a decidedly unphotogenic cereal or marmalade on toast to the bright hues of avocado toast. Everyone can easily check out the number of posts on Instagram about avocado toast and there are nearly 250.000 (2016) #avocadotoast hashtagged photos on that social media platform (the data was updated on July 15, 2018, was 855.513 posts). Regarding the explanation of Tandoh (2016) about the influence of social media on not just the type of food that we eat, but how we cook and eat that food, the author also says the healthy foods always contain many colors and this makes the dish become more attractive to people. The old saying that we eat first with our eyes rings true. “Among the foods billed to gain traction in 2017, today’s Waitrose report points to Hawaiian pole and even, in an alarming twist, vegetable yogurts”. No doubt these will be helped along in the likability stakes with their colorful, snappy social media vibe. Once healthy colorful food becomes a trend, there are many people who will pay attention to those mouthwatering recipes. The more they search for the information, the more they will explore the nutrition facts of those food and become aware of which one is presented as healthy and which one is the unhealthy choice. A potentially good connection is created between the social media platforms and healthy eating habits because of that.
In the same line with Tandoh, Vogel (2016) argues that posting food on social media can inspire smarter food choices and seeing healthy food on social media makes nutrition more prominent in people’s lives. Besides the traditional ways like television channels and newspapers, people nowadays can easily get recipes, education about nutrition, grocery-shopping tips and more through the Internet and especially from their own social media platforms. Even colorful shots of beautifully presented dishes can go a long way toward motivating folks to pay attention, branch out and try something new. For White, iIt seems like there is a strategy that if people see healthy food everywhere, they will have no ability to ignore it. With this argument, Vogel (2016) seems to agree with Tandoh that creating posts that make people admire healthy food and want to taste it for themselves is certainly possible. Because healthy food is often the most colorful and those are the foods that make the most vibrant picture. If the food looks appetizing or colorful, people instinctively want to try it. In the article, Vogel (2016) cited many other experts which will be listed below to root her ideas which shows there are many researchers and nutritionists have the same concerns as her. For example, Chris Mohr is a Ph.D. and a registered dietitian who in the same vein with Vogel and Tandoh suggests that when food looks good, people are more likely to eat it or want to eat it. Jim White, another expert, registered dietitian, owner of his own fitness and nutrition studios, says “people have become so obsessed with sharing pictures of their own food on social media that they may choose a specific dish at a restaurant because of its it ‘Instagram quality'”. By quoting these ideas, Vogel makes the point that her views about the good impacts of social media on healthy eating habits are not alone in the discussion field. However, photos of healthy food are not the only thing social media can bring to people. In order to demonstrate a good recipe in a vivid way, food creators make cooking videos. Vogel (2016) and other experts rely on videos, slideshows, and infographics to do the work. The world is changing continuously, and social media platforms are also changing day after day. There are food creators who come up with new ideas, and when the food photos become so popular with people, other new ideas pop up, such as food preparing hacks in short or easy-to-implement tutorials which help millions of people save their time in the kitchen and definitely attract them. Each social media platform offers different methods. Facebook, for instance, has a live-streaming feature that works well because it allows nutritionists, registered dietitians, and experts in healthy eating, to interact with viewers in real time. Even though somebody misses the live-streaming, he or she can also effortlessly find the content on the fan page whenever he or she wants. Meanwhile, Pinterest seems to be an effective space for illustrations of food-portion sizes and infographics of recipes. Pinterest users can search for many different types of food, or they can search for many ‘food hacks’ which help people spend less time in their kitchen but still have healthy meals. It is also easy to spread the message on Pinterest, as people re-pin content they like to their own Pinterest boards. Finding information on cooking and eating healthy has never been easier.
Regarding nutrition matters on social media platforms, Vogel (2016) says the evidence-based research or information from nutrition experts is very important. In the online world, there are so many nutrition sources which may come from posts of inexperienced people and it is a real challenge for anyone who wants to get rid of it, because there are so many online sources providing information, and it takes quite a lot of time and effort to check and trace the reliability of that information. The author with other experts such as Jim White – registered dietitian, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia, and Kathy Smart, registered holistic nutritionist and author of ‘the Live the Smart Way’ cookbook, argues that apart from the educational aspect, social media is the perfect forum for sharing food-related content also for other reasons. For instance, posts about food and nutrition on social media is good for business. Social media helps create brand awareness. If healthy and nutritious meals can make themselves become popular like fast food companies are doing right now on social media, it could help many people change their eating habits. Ideally, this could be a great deal which brings benefits to both sides: the providers and the customers.
2.43.2 The dark side: social media use and eating concerns – a complicated association
Sidani et al. (2016) broaden our knowledge in nutrition and dieting to a new level with their study about the dark side of social media use with its potential negative effects on young adults’ eating concerns in the US (including concerns regarding losing control over how much one eats; one’s life being dominated by food; having other people express concerns about one’s eating patterns; one’s weight negatively affects the way one feels about oneself, and being satisfied with one’s eating patterns). Sidani et al. (2016) states that feeding and eating disorders, known more colloquially as eating disorders, represent an important clinical and mental health issue in the U.S., especially among adolescents and young adults. Eating disorders can have serious medical complications, and meta-analyses suggest an increased mortality rate—including an increased risk of suicide—for individuals with anorexia nervosa. By citing the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) definitions, the article points out lifetime prevalence by age 20 of approximately 0.8% for anorexia nervosa (AN), 2.6% for bulimia nervosa (BN), 3% for binge eating disorder (BED), and 11.5% for feeding or eating disorder not elsewhere classified (FEDNEC).
According to Sidani et al. (2016), the etiology of eating concerns is multifactorial and includes biological, psychological, intrapersonal, and environmental influences. Therefore, it is not surprising that there might be a connection between social media use and the development of eating concerns. In the article, the authors indicate that ne environmental influence – exposure to media such as fashion magazines and television – has been associated with the development of these issues, which is likely mediated by thin-ideal internalization. Nnewly emerging social media combine many aspects of traditional media with technologically-facilitated peer attractioninteraction. The combination of visual media and propagation of stereotypes among peers may be linked to increased risk for eating concerns. For example, studies of Facebook have found that maladaptive use, such as comparing one’s self to others online leads to dissatisfaction in college women (Fardouly and Vartanian, 2015). In order to find out the result of associations between two different measures of social media use – volume and frequency – and eating concerns, Sidani et al. (2016) invited 1765 young adults aged 19-32 years, who were randomly selected from a national probability-based online non-volunteer panel, to participate in their research.
The results from Sidani et al.’s study indicate a strong and consistent association between social media use and eating concerns in a nationally-representative sample of young adults aged 19 to 32 years. All types of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and so forth may expose users to the influential visual material, including visuals that may promote the thin ideal. The rResearch of Sidani et al. suggests that individuals who use Facebook with higher frequency compare themselves with others, potentially leading to body image concerns. Another explanation for the results of Sidani et al.’sthe study is that those individuals who develop eating concerns may consequently use more social media. These individuals may seek out information on social media to connect with other individuals who also have eating concerns. However, using these groups for social support may be problematic, as studies suggest that these groups may lead to the development of a shared social identity that inhibits authentic and meaningful recovery from an eating disorder (Kay, J. 2015).
In the article, Sidani et al. also indicate some limitations of the study. First, the cross-sectional design of the study limits the ability to make causal inferences regarding…. Second, all data were self-reported. Third, because this sample consisted of individuals aged 19-32 years, results cannot be generalized to any other age groups. Fourth, the response rate was 59% and non-respondents may have been different from respondents. Fifth, although the eating concerns measure was adapted from two validated measures, it would be valuable to more closely align scale values with established clinical cutoffs. Finally, the assessments of social media use in this study were limited to the volume and frequency of use. From the limitations of the research, the authors suggest future studies should also examine other contextual factors around social media use, such as whether use in generally alone or with peers. In addition, the results from the research also suggest an important association that should be further explored in longitudinal analyze to determine temporality. 2.54 Conclusion
The booming of social media platforms recently has a real influence on the way people all around the world choose and eat their food. Even though there are still some gaps between the viewpoints of the authors regarding the association of social media platforms and eating habits, or some limitations within their frameworks, they are the pioneers in this field – doing research on the relationship between social media and human diet. The date of these studies is very recent (most of the sources are from 2016); this means there is plenty of room for further research, and inspiring topics to study for everybody who has an interest in nutrition information and its paths in the online world.