Food pictures are all over social media. Do all of these food pictures influence how we eat? A new study says it might.
What did they study?
To get an idea of what people think of how their social media friends eat, researchers asked them to report on their perceptions of how much and how often their friends ate certain foods as well as whether they think their friends like certain foods. They also asked how often they thought their friends should eat certain foods. They then compared this to how the people in the study actually eat.
What did they find?
How much and how often people believed their social media friends ate fruits and vegetables predicted how often they ate fruits and vegetables themselves. People with friends who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables ate more, while people with friends who are not big posters of fruits and vegetable pics tended to eat fewer. For less healthy items like high calorie snacks or sugar sweetened drinks, people were influenced by how much they thought their friends should have, not how much they actually had. The more they thought their friends should have, the more they had themselves.
While this study is just the beginning of looking at how social media can influence our eating styles, it does offer some ideas on how we can test some new strategies for eating better. If you have some food related goals you are trying to achieve, enlist some friends to help and make it social. Post pictures of your favorite healthy foods, drinks and meals and encourage your friends to do the same. Even if it doesn’t influence your behavior, it could give you some ideas for new foods to try.
Lily K. Hawkins, Claire Farrow, Jason M. Thomas. Do perceived norms of social media users eating habits and preferences predict our own food consumption and BMI?, Appetite, Volume 149, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.104611.