Adolescents' Food Communication in Social Media

Adolescents' Food Communication in Social Media

Christopher Holmberg (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7601-3.ch024


Social media is ubiquitous in the lives of adolescents. Social media permits users to upload and share contents pertinent to health such as food and nutrition communications. Studies show that the dissemination and sharing of food content is prevalent in these channels. Not only do messages of food serve a symbolic purpose in these online platforms, but this communication might also affect adolescents in both positive and negative ways in regards to health. Visual food messages can affect brain areas associated with appetite and influence dietary behaviors among adolescents similar to advertisements. The objective with this chapter is to elucidate the complex and interwoven relationship between food and nutrition, social media, and adolescents from a health communication perspective. The chapter draws upon empirical studies and results, as well as related conceptual literature. Methodological and theoretical explanations are discussed as well as practical implications. Future research directions are also outlined.
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The social nature of food and food practices - that is, the idea that food is a way to interact and connect with others - is crucial to promoting health. To better understand food and its complex relationship with social media, we need to consider how diets and food habits connect people culturally. While food and nutrients are necessary for human survival, they also function as important objects in culture and as rich sources for metaphor (Korthals, 2008). Some sociologists even aver that food is a total social fact (Mauss, 1967). The cultural dimension of food practices has been termed the “omnivore’s dilemma” (Korthals, 2008) or “omnivore’s paradox” (Fischler, 1988), based on the assumption that humans can eat a wide variety of things. Unlike specialized eaters, omnivores such as humans can thrive on a multitude of diets and lack inherent predilections for foods that are healthy. Culture thus becomes a primary factor that dictates human eating behaviors, which suggests that the social meaning and metaphors of food can affect food choices and implicate which types of food confer social acceptance.

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