Last week I finished my Master’s which was an AMAZING feeling. The final stage of my course was to complete a dissertation, where I investigated what influences social media has on food choice. Lots of you expressed an interest in this topic and said how relevant it is seeing as social media is massive, so I thought I would share extracts of the 15,000 word essay so that you can gain a better understanding of what I discovered, enjoy!
“In today’s modern society, social comparison is affiliated with social media. Social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumbler and SnapChat, are increasingly becoming some of the most accepted forms of communication. As of April 2017, there were 2 billion Facebook users (1.968 billion), 600 million Instagram users and 319 million Twitter users. The Uses and Gratification theory (U&G theory) highlights motivations for seeking and using media; implying use is driven by ‘needs’, which are a combination of psychological dispositions, sociological factors and environmental conditions that motivate use. It is debated that social needs are the most predominant reason for seeking and using social media because it has the ability to provide convenience and efficiency of relationships.
Dedicated fan pages allow vast forms of advertising for marketing purposes. The vividness, interactivity and attractive content are inviting for users to comment, like and share the content of the brand or product across their own personal profiles. As the relationship has been developed between users and food, there has been an increase in brand and business-related User Generated Content (UGC); with the percentage of companies using social media for marketing purposes rising from 42% in 2008, to 88% in 2012. UGC is published content by consumers, who express themselves and communicate with other consumers and users online, such as creating consumer-produced product reviews and advertisements. One reason for the popularity of sharing food photos is that social media is an opportunity for individuals to portray the ‘best version’ of themselves to others users. For instance, users may want to be perceived as ‘healthy’ and consequently, post ‘healthy food’ pictures to portray this perception. This popularity has led to in-house competitions, where restaurants, bars, brands and companies advertise ‘take a photo on social media, use the hashtag (#name) and you may win a meal for 4’, with the aim of increasing exposure online.
The limited evidence identified (because it’s a new topic) supports the idea that as a result of available communication and information, social media could be used positively as an internet-based platform that promotes positive health behaviour change, healthy food choices and healthy behaviours. This is something that Public Health specialists should consider for future obesity prevention techniques, or other relevant healthier lifestyle interventions. In contrast, evidence supports complexities of determinants of health, highlighting how food-related content can influence unhealthy food choices and behaviours, such as consumption of unhealthy foods and, even though healthy fan pages and healthy foods were available, this is often associated with the risk of eating disorders, such as Orthorexia Nervosa”.
I hope you enjoyed that extract, my message to you today would be to become more aware of food and beverage advertising that surrounds you. It is always in the interest of the online advertisers to make money and increase popularity, not to make you happy, so do not buy and consume products/foods/beverages unnecessarily, especially if you didn’t want it in the first place, no matter whether it’s ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. Media (be it social media) is a very powerful tool!
© 2017 Naomi Laws. All rights reserved.