Read Time: 2 mins
When I hear the words ‘family meal’, the image that springs to my mind is the Bisto family noisily preparing for Sunday lunch. For many, meal times are an occasion when families sit down together and catch up, or friends gather together to celebrate.
Essentially, meal times are a social occasion. But these days, when 1 in every 3.5 households comprise a single person, working hours are longer, and supermarkets and food outlets are often open 24/7, more and more people are regularly sitting down to eat alone. Not so sociable.
Live to tweet
On the surface, social media allows the experience not to be solitary. Take a picture of what you’re about to tuck into, post it on Instagram (search #food and you’ll find 246 million posts on this site alone) and, once people like your picture and start posting comments, you’re no longer a slightly sad loner; quite the opposite, you’re in communication with many more people than you could ever fit around your kitchen table.
Dig a little deeper, and of course, as in all areas of our lives, from exercise to fashion and holidays, social media allows what we eat to create a reflection of the sort of person we are. It indicates class, generation and wealth. It gives all our friends and followers an idea of how cool we perceive ourselves to be – whether we’re ‘ironically’ sitting in a greasy spoon eating a Full English, or discreetly trying to photograph and post our umpteenth ‘offering from the chef’ in a place with 3 stars above the door.
If this sounds a little derisory, it’s not meant to be. I think it’s wonderful that ingredients and meals are celebrated across all channels of social media, especially when there are so many far more distasteful topics and pictures under discussion across the very same forums. It engages all users in debates around food production, culinary skills and particularly health.
Eat to live (or not)
Social media has given a huge range of dietary trends a platform. There is huge support (and rightly so) for those who are trying to encourage us to think about what we eat in terms of health and longevity – think the ubiquitous Avocado on Toast and the equally ubiquitous Hemsley Sisters. However, there is a darker side.
40-60% of “patients referred to a leading eating disorder therapist are having their conditions worsened by social media,” reports ITV.
In addition to the ever-increasing influence of the modern celebrity culture, where brands have a propensity to turn to Photoshop to digitally ‘enhance’ the bodies of their models, there are forums and social media chatrooms that provide tips and advice on how those with eating disorders can actually prolong their condition. This is incredibly dangerous. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr state that they are constantly seeking out such groups and blogs, but sadly there are always going to be some that slip through the net.
Ultimately, the relationship between food and social media mirrors the relationships that social media has with most other aspects of our daily lives.
There will always be those who seek to cause harm. But apart from breathing, eating is the most fundamental human need, and through food, social media encourages us to communicate, inspire and thrive in a world where lifestyles are changing rapidly, but in which all of us still need the social interaction that breaking bread together brings.
Knapton Wright Ltd.