(Original article posted February 4, 2019 via forbes.com, © 2019)
Currently, the most liked photograph on Instagram is an egg. While the reasons behind that may not be motivated by love of food, there’s no denying that food is huge on social media. In fact, pizza is the most Instagrammed food. That’s followed by steak and sushi. There are more than 1.7 billion recipe pins on Pinterest. BuzzFeed’s Tasty, a food oriented page on Facebook, has over 3.5 million followers.
It’s nearly impossible to scroll through any social media feed without seeing pictures of food, recipes, food-related videos, or simply posts from friends and family discussing what they have or will eat. Have you ever wondered how all of this exposure to food on social impacts your eating habits? As it turns out, the news is mixed.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study and found a few disturbing trends. Study participants who spent the most time on social media each day were 2.2 times more likely to report that they had issues with body image and eating. Participants who spent less time on social media did not report those concerns with the same frequently. The most frequent users reported 2.6 times more.
This coincides with information in other studies that indicate that looking at pictures and videos of food can trigger behavioural and physiological responses that lead to excess hunger. This of course can lead to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain.
There’s also an undeniable frustration factor at play. Someone who is trying to improve their health and wellness by changing their diet or making other lifestyle changes may not be up for seeing post after post of decadent food and drink.
Finally, diners and restaurant managers alike are beginning to rebel against the trend of photographing and sharing food on social media. It’s even been banned in some establishments. Many feel as if all of this food photography degrades the dining experience and leaves food to go cold while diners try to capture the perfect picture. It’s difficult to enjoy food or making healthy eating choices when the priority is on choosing food for its Instagram potential.
The good: social media is an outlet for qualified professionals to share legit advice
While ‘Foodstagrammers’ may be driving some of us to eat while we shouldn’t and simply irritating others who are tired of the endless onslaught of ‘look at my lunch!’ posts, there is some good news. There are qualified nutritionists, dieticians, chefs and wellness brands like Vape Genie using social media as a platform to share solid diet advice on healthy eating, nutrition, alcohol detox, weight loss and other topics.
It’s not always possible for people to reach out to their traditional healthcare providers for advice and insights on diet and wellness. As a result, they’re turning to social media more and more often, for practical advice they can use right away.
In addition to helping people access great dietary and wellness advice, social media is also widening our food horizons in a cultural sense as well. Blogs and social media channels are leading people to be exposed to cuisines that they may have never seen before.
People who may have never done so otherwise are making their way to restaurants to try authentic ramen, curries, soul food, street tacos, injera, bibimbap and a variety of other foods. Not only this, but they’re buying the ingredients and making these recipes at home as well. Inevitably, as people learn about new cuisines, they become exposed to the people and cultures behind those cuisines.
One side effect of this is that people are being exposed to proteins, fruits and vegetables that they may not have experienced before. Then there are the new herbs, spices and plants like CBD to explore for health benefits, according to Rena’s Organic. This can lead to a more varied diet and that’s almost always healthier.
While it’s true that social media can lead to some negative thoughts and behaviours related to food, there is more good news than bad. Social media can be a wealth of helpful advice on diet and wellness. It can also expose to new foods and new cultures. This can lead to better understanding and communication between cultures.