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How Social Media Impacts Our Relationship With Food

The influence we give to food is something sensational and everyone seems to be a food expert simply because they eat. In the advent of social media and even today it is not surprising to see someone rattle off their lunch on Twitter, nod to their new favorite restaurant, or showcase the grandiose meal they made on Instagram.

This food – this power – plays out differently in different corners of the world 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. Body Image

What you see is not always what you get.

Source: WordZz

Instagram provides an in-built tool that offers a number of 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.

2. The CheatMeal

Cheat meals provide a health halo to all foods consumed 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.

Source: BETTER

3. Expectation vs. Reality

“Food Porn” looks different on the side of town.

Source: TheIndianEXPRESS

Individuals tend to make diverse food purchasing and dining choices, including where, when, how, and which types of food to acquire. By comparing groups of Twitter users who shop in grocery stores to those who dine at fast food restaurants, 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.

4. FakeNews

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. 59% of people will share an article online without even reading it.

Source: Texas State University

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.

5. 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.

Source: Convivium

Survey shown employees contributed one-fourth of all negative posts, and the posts by employees received slightly more comments and likes than the ones by customers.

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.

6. 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.

Source: Saxonscope

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.

7. Food Safety Education

Public health experts can find teachable moments with foodies online.

Source: fsis.usda.gov

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.

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