Social Media's Influence On Eating Habits Is Stronger Than You May Think

You don't have to be an avid social media user to realize that these online platforms have entirely shifted the way we interact with the world. While targeted marketing strategies have been steadily evolving over the past several years, social media goes beyond just influencing the products we purchase, says Wired. Among the wide range of content on social media platforms, pictures of food and recipes are incredibly common. In fact, the most popular type of content on social media happens to be food, according to SWNS Digital.

Recently, California Figs conducted a survey through OnePoll to examine just how influential social media can be when it comes to food choices. (The motive behind it being that the growers association wanted to display the fruit's popularity in social media, thanks to their undeniably stunning visual appeal.) Although the sample size of the consumer survey was only 2,000 people, the results were surprising — or maybe not, depending on how you may use social media.

The survey asked numerous questions about social media habits related to food. Karla Stockli, CEO of the California Fresh Fig Growers Association, remarked that "social media can open people up to new tastes and experiences, allowing them to broaden their horizons and discover a love for something that they may not have tried before." Indeed, the results of the study published on SWNS Digital demonstrated that 68% of consumers that saw fig recipes online were consequently eager to taste the fruit.

The other social media habits consumers admitted to in the survey

Over half of the users (54%) surveyed in the California Fresh Fig Growers Association poll reported using social media to find recipes compared to 44% who opted for cookbooks, but that figure is still behind the 62% that use Internet search tools — a sign that times are changing. As well, more than half of the consumers (53%) confirmed that they tried recipes after seeing them online. Anyone who's been drawn to a TikTok food trend knows how tempting it is to try the latest social media hyped item.

The results get a bit weirder, though, with 40% of people admitting to ordering food to post on social media without actually eating it (via SWNS Digital). The Takeout hypothesized that large portion sizes could be to blame, but the study revealed that 19% of people didn't even plan to eat the food originally. Aside from the obvious question as to whether they discarded the food, these results point to the large impact that social media has in dictating food choices. 

Indeed, the SWNS Digital article reports that 27% of consumers surveyed have changed their diet habits to be in line with the more appealing pictures on their social media accounts and 44% reported always posting photos of their food. A whopping 85% also said they've experienced cravings for a food they've seen on social media, with pizza, burgers, and cocktails being among the most popular types.

Paired with controversial social media trends such as #whatieatinaday, it is alarming to realize that a basic human need is increasingly tied to the influence of social media. While it can be fun to take the perfect Insta shot, and many food bloggers actually rely on this for their income, it's important to remember that the online world is incredibly curated. As California Figs' Stockli mentioned, "What we found enlightening was the importance of photogenic foods and how that has impacted the rise in popularity of foods" — but it's good to remember it's okay to eat things that maybe wouldn't look good in your feed.