How often are you scrolling through social media and you see a picture or a video of a burger with fries, chili, cheese and all the amazing toppings? When you see the photo, you get that feeling in your stomach, suddenly you are hungry, you want a burger and nothing else will fill that craving. Now do you have this same reaction when you see a salad; just a regular house salad with ranch dressing? Yeah, not as exciting as the burger. Now what if you saw a bowl of jerk chicken on top of quinoa and veggies, that would satisfy your hunger but also be a whole lot healthier than that burger. Social media influences eating preferences, especially in Millennials.
Marketing influences people’s choices on what to eat, especially in adolescents. Qutteina et al (2019) completed research as to how media increases the consumption of fried food and other foods that are referred to as non-core foods. In the study, non-core foods are described as being “associated with a range of chronic disorders and diseases” (Qutteina et al. 2019). Non-core foods are anything that does not fit into the main five core food groups or don’t have high values of any of these; vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy. How often do you see advertisement for food that would be considered healthy and consisting of all the five core food groups? Now think back to my question I asked at the beginning of this blog post; how often do you see food like that and actually get it? It happens to the best of us – we see something that looks good, but we know it’s unhealthy. It is either marketed well or we see it just enough times to where we want it, so we finally cave and get it. I know that the targeted advertisements that I get on my Instagram or the notifications that pop up on my phone from Domino’s can be very convincing.
Social media can be helpful and inspire people to eat healthier, but at the same time it can be very unhealthy too and inspire binge eating or unhealthy eating. I personally see at least two photos a day of a stereotypical “healthy” meal but it looks delicious. Normally when people think of eating healthy a bland salad comes to mind, but social media does a good job at portraying healthy food as very intriguing. I believe that media accounts do a good job at marketing healthy food but there is always room for improvement. When it comes to unhealthy eating being promoted I can think of many examples. I can tell you about the countless times I have been scrolling through social media and I see a photo of a “mukbang” which is a giant meal that consists over 2000 calories; it can be anything from an entire fast food menu to eating one particular meal in one giant course. This is promoting unhealthy lifestyles because a mukbang is where you consume a large amount of food in one sitting. I can’t tell you about the countless times I have been scrolling through my social media profiles and I’ve come across people my age eating what looks delicious, but I know it isn’t healthy. However, it looks so good in the photo or video that I can’t stop thinking about it. Before I know it, I end up ordering something very similar, and each time this happens it is because I was just influenced by someone I don’t even know.
Peer to peer social media influence (friends, acquaintances) can have more of an impact than influencers. I know personally my friends always have an impact on where I eat if I am eating with them. Also a lot of influencers don’t live in Wilmington, North Carolina, so when I see a influencer who lives in LA the chances of me getting the same food she is posting is very slim, but the chance of me getting the same meal from a local restaurant that someone posted on their Instagram story – that’s a lot more likely.
This article is important because it’s about how to promote healthy eating among adolescents. It is really hard to promote healthy food sometimes when there is such a negative mindset surrounding it. When I asked my friends to tell me the first healthy food, they could think of all of them said some sort of vegetable. But there are so many other foods that are delicious, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing. For example, smoothie bowls have become an internet sensation and they are very healthy depending on what you put in them. Almost everything is promoted online nowadays through social media, especially with COVID-19 people are marketing through popular apps like Instagram, Tik Tok, and many more. Next time you go on social media for #FoodieFriday take a couple extra seconds to think about if the food that’s getting promoted is healthy for you and your body.
Qutteina,Y & Hallez, L & Mennes, N & De Backer, C & Smitz, T (2019) What Do Adolescents See on Social Media? A Diary Study of Food Marketing Images on Social Media, Vol. 10.
Written by Alexis Jones. You can learn more about Alexis and our other blogwriters by clicking the “Our Team” banner at the top!