Social Media Shapes Food Culture And Influences Dietary Choices

November 21, 2023

Two out of every five Instagram users explore food content, with 27% of them sharing food-related videos and photos. As people worldwide increasingly turn to platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube for culinary inspiration and advice, the influence of social media on food choices has become undeniable.

In a world dominated by digital connectivity, social media platforms have emerged as powerful agents of change, shaping all aspects of modern life. Food culture and dietary preferences have definitely been affected by this revolutionary shift.

The Visual Feast: Instagram And Food Photography

Instagram, known for its focus on visual content, has revolutionized how viewers interact with food. The platform’s emphasis on stunning visuals and aesthetically pleasing presentations has created a new form of culinary artistry. Influencers, food bloggers, and chefs alike have found a stage to showcase their creations, often pushing the boundaries of traditional culinary norms. Instagram has fostered a visual storytelling culture around food, from elaborate multi-course meals to simple yet elegant home-cooked dishes.

A recent study conducted by psychologists from Aston University’s College of Health and Life Sciences reveals that social media users exposed to images of nutritious foods with substantial ‘likes’ are more inclined to pursue healthier food options.

The research indicates that participants who viewed mock Instagram posts featuring popular fruits and vegetables later consumed a larger serving of grapes than cookies. Specifically, grape consumption increased by 14 percent compared to those who viewed other endorsed, high-calorie foods.

Short-Form Entertainment: TikTok and Culinary Creativity

TikTok, with its short-form video format, has democratized the culinary world. With concise, engaging videos, creators can share recipes, cooking tips, and innovative food hacks in less than a minute. This accessibility has brought culinary expertise to a broader audience, making cooking less daunting and more approachable. Moreover, viral food trends like whipped coffee and cloud bread have swept the platform, demonstrating TikTok’s immense influence in shaping dietary preferences.

Bella Bucchiotti, food writer at xoxoBella, says, “With the popularity of TikTok, food trends can spread like wildfire, influencing what we eat and how we prepare it. As someone with celiac disease, I find this can be a double-edged sword. While social media has helped shed light on gluten-free options and provided a community for those with the condition, it has also led to the proliferation of potentially harmful misinformation.”

Long-Form Expertise: YouTube And Cooking Tutorials

For those seeking in-depth culinary training, YouTube has become an invaluable resource. Many cooking channels hosted by amateur enthusiasts and professional chefs offer detailed tutorials. These range from basic cooking techniques to advanced, restaurant-worthy recipes. This platform bridges the gap between culinary novices and seasoned experts, allowing viewers to explore diverse cuisines and cooking styles from home.

Cultural Exchange: Influencers and Global Gastronomy

Social media has enabled an unprecedented exchange of culinary cultures. Influencers and content creators often delve into international cuisines, showcasing the richness and diversity of global food traditions. This cross-pollination of culinary ideas has popularized niche dishes, fostering a more inclusive and adventurous approach to food.

Food influencers excel at creating visually appealing content. Their beautifully curated photos and videos showcase dishes in the most appetizing way possible. A typical video could present a steaming bowl of delectable noodles slurped tantalizingly by a favorite influencer. In turn, this could entice viewers to try new recipes or visit restaurants based solely on the visual appeal of the food.

Influencers also often set food trends. Whether it’s a new cooking technique, a unique ingredient, or a specific dish, their endorsement can propel a food item into the spotlight, encouraging followers to add it to their culinary repertoire.

Karen Kelly from Seasonal Cravings says, “Social Media has affected food culture in many ways, some good and some bad. Personally, I think many of the social media foodie accounts have made people more adventurous in what they eat. We see the bright colors and flavors, and they look so appetizing we want to try them out at home. There are many times that my teenage son comes to me with recipes he wants to cook for us, and most of them are very healthy.”

Many food influencers advocate for healthier eating and wellness. They share tips on balanced diets, nutritional information, and dietary restrictions. Their advice can steer their followers towards more nutritious food choices. Through the sharing of experiences and preferences, or promoting food products or kitchen equipment, their followers often change their own cooking and eating habits.

The Dark Side: Challenges And Concerns

The pervasive influence of social media on food culture and dietary choices isn’t without its darker side. Challenges and concerns have emerged as these platforms continue to shape how people approach food. The pressure to present visually perfect and elaborate dishes on social media can set unrealistic standards for home cooks.

This may lead to feelings of inadequacy and discourage people from experimenting in the kitchen. In the pursuit of visually appealing meals, the nutritional content of food can become secondary. There’s a risk amateur cooks will prioritize appearance instead of nutritionally balanced meals.

Social media tends to amplify food trends, which could promote unsustainable eating habits. Fad diets and extreme culinary experiments may not always align with long-term health and well-being. It can also lead to the homogenization of culinary traditions. Authentic, culturally significant dishes like Fumbwa or African peanut stew might be overshadowed by other dishes that photograph better.

Another downside is that social media can glorify indulgent, highly processed, and calorically dense foods. This often contributes to a culture of overconsumption and unhealthy indulgence. The constant exposure to images of ‘perfect’ bodies and ‘ideal’ diets impacts body image and leads to disordered eating patterns. This is a concerning aspect, particularly among more vulnerable demographics.

It is vital to remember that not all food-related content on social media is accurate or evidence-based. Misinformation and pseudoscience regarding diets and nutrition can become viral quickly, potentially leading to misguided dietary choices. Sponsored posts and partnerships with food brands can blur the line between genuine recommendations and paid endorsements.

This article was produced by Low Carb Africa and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Tayo Oredola | Wealth of Geeks undefined


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