Sunday, October 20, 2013

Is Social Media Ruining Your Appetite ?

Social Media Ruining Your Appetite
Social Media Ruining Your Appetite

You are in a restaurant. The waiter brings your food to the table and it looks so amazing, you upload a picture on Instagram to show your friends. No harm done, right? Simpler said, a lot of people go online to talk about the sandwich they just ate. But they’re not just talking about it, they’re photographing it. At least once a month, 52% of people take photos with their mobile phones; another 19% upload those photos to the web. There's enough of that group practicing "foodtography" to support the website Foodspotting, as well as a 2,500-member Foodtography group on Flickr. Photoblogging apps like Instagram and the latest, photo-enabled version of Foursquare are likely to further fuel the trend. The Chronicle’s Michael Bauer posts photos of his plates at restaurants to nearly 27,000 followers on Twitter, and has been recognized nationally for doing just that.

Well according to a new study, you may have just put your friends off their food. Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) and the University of Minnesota say their study, published in The Journal of Consumer Psychology, shows that looking at too many pictures of food can make it less enjoyable to eat. The reason being, you could be suffering from sensory boredom. In other words, you become tired of eating a food long before you even taste it. So if you’re on Instagram all day looking at all of the salads your friends post, you’re probably not going to enjoy your next salad quite as much.

"In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food," says Ryan Elder, professor at BYU and co-author of the study. "It's sensory boredom - you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore." The researchers recruited 232 participants who were asked to carry out experiments that involved viewing and rating pictures of various foods. In one experiment, half of the participants were asked to look at 60 pictures of sweet foods, including cake, truffles and chocolates. The other half of the participants were asked to look at 60 pictures of salty foods, including chips, pretzels and French fries. Both groups rated each food based on how appetizing they thought it was. All subjects were then required to eat a salty food, specifically, peanuts. They then rated how much they enjoyed eating the peanuts.

upload a food picture on Instagram social media
Upload a picture on Instagram
Results of the experiment showed that the participants who viewed the photos of the salty foods enjoyed the peanuts significantly less, compared with those who viewed the sweet foods, even though they had not viewed pictures of peanuts, just other salty foods. The researchers say the reason for this is that over-exposure to images of food increases a person's satiation. Satiation is defined as a reduction in enjoyment as a result of repeated consumption. For example, a person enjoys the first slice of cake more than the fourth slice, as they have become tired of eating the same food.

Jeff Larson, also a professor at BYU, notes that if a person wants to continue enjoying food consumption, it is best to avoid looking at too many food-related photos.

"Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had,"
He says. But he notes that their findings could be useful for those who want to avoid a particular unhealthy food. If a person wants to avoid eating chocolate, for example, he says they may want to look at more pictures of it. The study also didn't address what happens if you look of posts of healthy foods. I would guess the same effect would occur, so does that mean you would get tired of eating foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains? . The research data also showed that when you see an advertisement for a food item once, it triggers a craving. Multiple pictures for the same type of food will satisfy the craving for that food, and you will not want to eat the food any more. However, Prof. Elder warns that there is a stipulation: "You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects. It's not like if you look at something two or three times you'll get that satiated effect."


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