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Impact of Social Media on Dietary Choices

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Social media plays a significant role in everyone's life. Read the following article to learn about social media's impact on students' dietary choices.

Written by

Dr. Sophia. S

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Published At December 23, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 23, 2022

Introduction:

Many things have been affected by what is seen on social media. The biggest target of social media is students and teenagers. They get attracted by what they see on social media. As the products are marketed to show high nutritional value, young kids start consuming them, which puts them at risk of gaining weight and developing hypertension and other lifestyle diseases.

What Is Social Media?

Social media is a kind of online communication that enables users to share and exchange knowledge and produce web content. It can take many forms, including blogs, microblogs, wikis, social networking sites, photo and video-sharing websites, instant messaging, podcasts, widgets, virtual reality, and more.

How Has Social Media Impacted the Lives of Students?

Over the past 15 years, social media use has skyrocketed and evolved into a significant aspect of a student's social life. It is now regarded as a learning platform that enhances student capabilities and engagement while enabling interaction between students enrolled in related courses. Despite its advantages, students' lives are greatly influenced by what is posted by others on their profiles, as they are more prone to fluctuations in mood and self-control. Hence, instead of being influenced by their parent's or teachers' advice, students pick up habits more from the misleading influencers on social media.

What Are the Factors That Influence Food Choices?

Though hunger is the primary motivator for eating, other factors also play a role in people's food preferences apart from physiological or nutritional requirements. The following factors affect food decisions:

  • Biological determinants such as hunger, appetite, and taste.

  • Economic determinants such as cost, income, and availability.

  • Physical determinants such as access to food, cooking skills, and time.

  • Social determinants like culture, family, and meal patterns.

  • Psychological determinants such as mood and stress.

  • Attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge about food.

Factors associated with food choices vary according to life stages, and the power of one factor varies from one individual to another. As a result, not all population groups will respond well to the same intervention to change eating preferences. Instead, interventions must be tailored to various population segments, considering the factors influencing each group's food choices.

How Could Social Media Influence Dietary Decisions Positively?

1. Source of Inspiration and Encouragement

  • Subscribe and follow people whose diets or fitness levels you admire.

  • Because following people who provide a healthy food model makes you feel empowered toward positive change.

2. Source for Valuable Skills and Information

  • Social media can act as a platform to provide the necessary skills and information to plan their unique dietary plan.

3. Helps to Create a Healthy Food Community

  • Since social media can bring like-minded people together, you can easily find people with a healthy food model online.

  • For example, a study conducted in 2016 found that in an online weight management community, people who made more connections with others lost much weight.

4. Exposes to New Ideas and Options

  • Social media platforms can introduce people to new recipes, ingredients, and even new ways to prepare food using an ingredient they don't like and make it delicious with a few clicks.

How Could Social Media Influence Dietary Decisions Negatively?

Although its potential is good, social media has some negative drawbacks, which include

1. Distracted Eating Habits

  • Social media scrolling can cause distraction leading to under-eating or over-eating, so just scrolling through social media can harm eating habits rather than the posts posted there.

  • So, leaving the phone, tablet, or computer down while eating is always a good idea.

2. Creating Unrealistic Beliefs and Expectations

  • Social media is known for setting unrealistic expectations.

  • Rather than following people who pursue gluten-free, vegan cooking full-time, which might not suit their life, seek out those more accessible for their life circumstances.

3. Influencing Student’s Minds Through Advertisements

  • Nowadays, advertising is increasingly personalized and targeted based on personal information.

  • Hence, marketers use this to market their unhealthy products, which influences people to reach for many foods that they would not choose otherwise.

  • This can affect not only the purchasing habits but also the self-perceptions and behaviors.

Why Does Food Industry Rely on Social Media for Marketing?

  • Efficient and Affordable - Social media is cheaper than many other forms of advertising. Even when choosing a restaurant, many customers check out their profiles on social media.

  • Instant Updates - Social media is one of the quickest ways to inform customers about the restaurant, including opening and closing times, contact information, menu updates, daily specials, temporary holiday hours, one-time events, promotions, etc.

  • Two-Way Communication - Sending an instant message or email is a cost-free way to meet customers. This interaction also allows for strengthening the relationship with the customers and building brand loyalty.

  • Visual Marketing - Social media platforms are ideal for visual marketing with compelling images of mouthwatering food, making it irresistible.

  • Understand the Customer Experience - The pictures and reviews posted by the user about their experiences in restaurants give an easy insight into the customer's experience and highlight the small changes that can be made to improve the experience.

What Does the Research Say?

Numerous studies have shown that social media can negatively affect people's attitudes toward food, especially in younger age groups.

Studies have found:

  • A strong correlation between social media use and eating habits.

  • The correlation of social media usage with disordered eating habits and altered behaviors in children.

  • Disordered eating can be provoked by social media-related problems like peer comparison, idealizing unreachable standards, and hearing cruel comments about weight.

  • Adolescent girls who spend more time manipulating their image on social media have greater body-related and eating concerns.

What Can Be Done?

  • Parents must supervise their children's social media use, and they should be encouraged to use it responsibly.

  • Students should be aware of realistic and unrealistic expectations of food choices.

  • The government should frame and strengthen the regulations on convenience foods targeted toward adolescents.

  • In particular, it is important to regulate online advertisements and eliminate exaggerated ads to improve the accuracy of product information.

Conclusion:

Since social media greatly impacts students, exposing them to healthy food items on social media will surely help shift choices from unhealthy to healthy options. By utilizing this tool more efficiently, we can promote healthier foods and create a healthier and more effective society. Health professionals can also significantly contribute by teaching students and their parents about healthy eating practices and the right food selections.

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Dr. Sophia. S
Dr. Sophia. S

Dentistry

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