None of us can deny the fact that today we are living in a world that is heavily influenced by virtual platforms. We almost live a parallel life through our social media handles. Some say the virtual world has positive impacts on lives and some say it doesn't. Good or bad- that is the ultimate truth now. On this note, a study says that the eating habits of social media users, be it junk or healthy, are more likely to get influenced by the peer group. This research by Aston University's School of Life and Health Sciences was published in journal 'Appetite'.
An ANI report says that the participants of the study ate some extra portion of fruits and veggies to what they thought their 'friends' on social media consumed. If they thought their friends consumed five fruits a day, then they would add an extra portion to it by themselves, as per the study. But the Facebook users were found to eat extra portion of junk foods than their peer on the social networking site. The findings suggested, "People eat around a third more junk food if they think their friends also indulge in the same".
This study provided the first evidence to the fact that our eating habits could be implicitly influenced by our online social circles, "with important implications for using 'nudge' techniques on social media to encourage healthy eating". It was perceived that this whole idea of eating food like peer group came from seeing friends' posts about food and drink the consumed, or simply by the vibe of their healthy lifestyle. However, there was no significant link between the participants' eating habit and their Body Mass Index (BMI).
According to the ANI report, Aston University health psychology Ph.D. student Lily Hawkins, who led the study alongside supervisor Dr. Jason Thomas, said, "This study suggests we may be influenced by our social peers more than we realise when choosing certain foods. We seem to be subconsciously accounting for how others behave when making our own food choices. So if we believe our friends are eating plenty of fruit and veg we're more likely to eat fruit and veg ourselves. On the other hand, if we feel they're happy to consume lots of snacks and sugary drinks, it can give us a license to overeat foods that are bad for our health. The implication is that we can use social media as a tool to 'nudge' each other's eating behaviour within friendship groups, and potentially use this knowledge as a tool for public health interventions."
The researchers also stated that the next stage of the study will be tacking participants over a period of time whether the social media influence on eating habits have any long-term impact on their weight.