Phones eat first: how phones have changed how we eat

Giant croissants, butter boards and baked feta pasta. Social media influences what’s on our plates, but do our phones have a positive impact on what we eat?

Phones eat first: how phones have changed how we eat
Social media has millions of food accounts that flood our feeds every day. Whether it’s a giant croissant, a butter board or a feta pasta bake, social media has influenced what’s on our plates. It help us dig out the best brunch spots, inspires us to be chefs in our homes and introduces us to new ways to look after our gut health. So what impact has social media and technology had on our diets? And is it all positive?

The TikTok Effect

We eat with our eyes as well as our bellies, and TikTok and Instagram are feeding our eyes first. Curiosity equals clicks: creating meals that break the boundaries of traditional cooking is more likely to go viral on social media. Entire communities of creators are now breaking the normal dining rules. Think cheese tables, cakes that look like a kettle and pasta served in a parmesan wheel.
It has inspired people to get in the kitchen with confidence, host dinner parties with friends or try new restaurants and cuisines. Its even influenced people to go plant-based. Social media encourages people to venture to new places they’ve discovered online and ignites a passion for food for some by making it look so goddamn drool-worthy.
But depending on your algorithm, it can also influence us to make more impulsive or indulgent choices more regularly - with over 75% of people craving food once they’ve seen it on social media. Increased exposure to shocking food content like giant milkshakes with donuts on top, can cause cravings for unhealthier choices and skew consumer perceptions.
Food evolves with culture, and with our population sitting on social media for longer than ever, TikTok and Instagram have well and truly influencers where and what we eat.
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75% of people instantly crave food once they’ve seen it on social media

Gut health and nutrition

Social media is also an incredible source of culinary inspiration and education, with over 70% of people using social media to find new recipes. The growth of accounts like @mob, @emthenutitionist and @thebodycoach have helped lots of us learn how to cook delicious and nutritional meals.
Gut health, which has gone from cringe to cool, has been popularised by social media and podcasts which has strengthened many peoples understanding of how we should feed our bodies. Influencers and experts can easily share knowledge and recipes to help us eat more balanced meals, which was previously only guided through expensive personal experts, TV shows or our parents.

Social manners

The TikTok effect strikes again, but this time at the cost of our connections. Mealtimes in many cultures are a time to connect with friends and family. Even when we weren’t able to socialise during lockdown, digital dinners were a regular in our diaries. But when we’re dining together, our phones can also have a seat at the table.
Our phones tend to be in our hands before we even pick up our forks to get that aesthetic snap to share with our friends, with the average users sharing 6 pictures of their food a month on socials. Once our phones are out, they don’t tend to disappear back into our bags either with 81% of people admitting to using their phone whilst dining in a restaurant.
Phubbing (phone snubbing) during meals isn’t just perceived as rude, it has been found to significantly reduces mealtime satisfaction. Even the presence of a phone on the table (yes, even if it’s face down) can reduce the quality and enjoyment of conversation. Because it’s ‘normal’ to share everything on social media, it’s also become normal to also use our phones at the dinner table.
Using technology whilst we eat, even if we’re alone, can also cause us to mindlessly munch. One study found that we consume 15% more calories when we’re distracted by our phones. We are focused on something else, which numbs the brain-belly connection, causing us to feel less full and eat more.
81% of us admit to using our phones at the dinner table

The bottom line

Without a doubt, technology and social media has influenced what, how and where we eat. For a healthy algorithms the influence in the modern day is positive, especially regarding education on nutrition and cooking. But there is also a danger in algorithms serving us content that isn’t so good for the brain or body, which is why it’s so important to keep a healthy relationship with your phone and who you follow. Social media is a great tool to find new recipes and restaurants, but once you’re sat down to eat - put it away.

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