Flipping the Script: Creating Mass Change Through Social Networking Sites

Flipping the Script: Creating Mass Change Through Social Networking Sites

Jessica Lynn Campbell (University of Central Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4757-0.ch009
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This chapter proposes to “Flip the Script” of the prescribed diet in USA today that primarily revolves around eating meat. The consumerization of the consumption of meat is pervasive in this country, and individuals are culturally constructed to believe animal proteins are essential to the human diet. Using script theory, this chapter examines social networking sites (SNSs) as channels for implementing a mass dietary change in today's society, that which excludes meat. Script theory determines that individuals use instrumental knowledge of how to understand, react, and respond to situations that are repeatedly encountered. Being ideal spaces for initiating social changes, SNSs replicate real-life situations and are platforms, whereby messages can be shared, promoted, and exchanged in a global networked public.
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The consumption of meat has become a habitual practice in the United States. Stemming from the Second Industrial Revolution (Boundless, n.d.) in the nineteenth century, when society turned to capitalist modes of production, meat became a commodity—filling up U.S. dinner plates. While meat was consumed prior to the Industrial Revolution, it was only afforded by the elite and wealthy, therefore making it more popular and desired once it became cheaper. Marx (1867, p. 27) states:

A commodity is, in the first place, an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another. The nature of such wants, whether, for instance, they spring from the stomach or from fancy, makes no difference.

In a capitalist society, Marx maintains that people desire commodities simply because of the value that has been attached to them. Today, meat and other animal products are a large part of the Standard America Diet or SAD (USDA, n.d.). Nowhere is the commodification of products and items of desire more visible than in the U.S. with factory farms killing millions of animals to produce cheap meat. A powerful influence on individuals’ conception of meat are the dominant industries that have profited from humans’ consumption of animal products, including the livestock, food, and pharmaceutical industries. These profitable businesses invest many dollars into marketing and advertising of their products, which fuels existing consumer behavior and the mass desire to eat meat.

Scientific evidence has proven that the consumption of meat is damaging to the human body and causes diseases (Marcus, 1998). Furthermore, the production of animals for human consumption is, and will continue to be, environmentally devastating. Factory farming not only produces large concentrates of pollutants, but also uses up natural resources, such as land and water (Marcus, 1998). Yet, despite this evidence, most individuals blindly consume meat and believe that it is an essential part of the human diet. Numerous researchers have studied the psychological and social dynamics of the consumption of meat, as well as methods of changing individuals’ dietary habits (Delahoyde & Despenich, 1994; Lucan et al., 2012). However, there have been no successful solutions to altering society’s meat-eating mentality or to creating omnipresent behavior modifications. Thus, the question remains: How does one shift the social norm of meat consumption in a society whose thought processes and behaviors are governed by dominant power structures (media and advertising) and (constructed) habitual forces?

The purpose of this chapter is to approach social networking sites (SNSs) as networked publics for the construction of new social norms that censor the consumption of meat and reconfigure dietary practices which eliminate the eating of meat and establish the new standard script for eating in the U.S. Script theory, borrowed from the cognitive sciences, is used as a theoretical lens to understanding social media as agents of change. Applying script theory to endemic health and social problems has limitedly been studied (Enticott & Vanclay, 2011) and is a novel approach to mass social change.

This chapter discusses the stages of “Flipping the Script” of the SAD. First, embedding immersive experiences within SNSs is projected to expose individuals to the realities of the consumption of meat and to introduce new ways of thinking. Once engaged with the media and rhetoric of meat consumption, individuals will be motivated and compelled to participate in causal challenges and perform new behaviors and activities that are propagated through online sociality. Lastly, the reproduction of real-life social change will occur in online spaces as individuals reinforce one another’s newly formed dietary behaviors and the script for eating, which eliminates meat, will become the new social norm.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Stimulant: An environmental element or dynamic that affects another environmental element or dynamic, usually causing a reaction from that which it affects; for example, the environmental stimulus of a baby crying may cause a mother to behave in nurturing ways towards the baby; the environmental stimulus of cold weather may cause individuals to dress in warm clothing.

Affect System: The evolutionary mechanism that urges humans to perform the behaviors and respond to environmental stimuli in ways which will increase or gain them positive feelings and decrease or avoid negative feelings; for example, a woman is likely to continue to wear her hair down instead of up if she receives positive affirmations from individuals in her environment.

Paradigm: An exemplar prototype of a law, theory, or application that is widely known, believed, and accepted to be the best or most popular of its kind; for example, Facebook may be widely known to be the paradigmatic SNS.

Social Networking Site (SNS): An online/digital platform whereby individuals congregate to communicate, share information, photos, videos, and links, and can respond to each other via a constructed lexicon comprised of symbols (“Like” button) and icons (emoji).

Drive System: The evolutionary, physical mechanism that urges humans to perform the behaviors required for their survival and to duplicate themselves in time and space; these drives include hunger (sustenance), tiredness (sleep), and sex (reproduction).

Motivation: The abstract force that compels humans to perform, act, or do that which they desire; motivation can be intrinsic, such as an individual taking a class to simply learn a new skill, or extrinsic, such as an individual taking a class because she or he will get paid more at her or his workplace after taking the class.

Consumerization: Refers to society’s need to purchase or somehow gain access to a product or service considered a commodity simply because of the need to purchase or gain access to it; for instance, meat has become a commodity in the U.S. today because individuals believe it is essential to the human diet and purchase and eat it regularly.

Farm Factory: An intensive form of modern farming, whereby animals are mass-produced and killed to be sold for human consumption; factory farms are large facilities, whereby livestock are routinely mistreated; harmed; injured; starved; injected with medicines and hormones to combat disease and for rapid growth; artificially inseminated; dragged; overheated, and cruelly treated in more industrial-style like methods prior to their being killed.

Script: The knowledge stored in an individual’s memory that is unconsciously used to understand, react, and behave in repeatedly encountered real-life social situations; scripts are stimulated when an individual encounters the situation that which has been repeatedly experienced.

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