Opinion: New study looks at impact of new media on eating habits

Posted by David Gomez

One of the benefits of the information age is the new forms of media that we have access to. But did you ever wonder how new media impacts our eating habits?

Well a new study has shown that new media has a significant impact on our eating habits. And it basically shows that new-media technology is multiplying the amount of pointless things people will waste their time on at an unnatural rate.

According to a news release, a new study by the Rochester Institute of Technology is one of the first to examine how new-media technology, like the Internet and smartphones, are altering college students’ eating habits and their association to food. The findings show that people are more likely to have meals while sitting at the computer than at the kitchen table, and that they use social media as the primary method of obtaining recipe and nutritional information.
    
“I sought to investigate how the explosion of new media is changing traditional notions of meals and how this is transforming human interaction,” notes Madeline Varno, a senior communication major at RIT and principle author of the study. “As opposed to their parents or grandparents, college students do not see meals as a central activity in and of itself, either for enjoyment or communication. In fact none of the respondents I interviewed even had a kitchen table.”
    
The traditional family meal and the social interaction that comes with it could be a thing of the past thanks to new technologies. I've never been a big propent of the family style meal but it seems like people want to be plugged in to their social technologies at all times, even it means sacrificing intereactions with real people.
    
Varno did a far-reaching survey of college students at RIT, which evaluated how meals were made and eaten, how students interacted with others during meals and how they gathered information about nutrition, possible food choices and recipes. It also weighed the significance of meals in students’ social lives.
    
“Eating is now just one of several activities being multitasked at once, all of which generally involve computers and smartphones, including surfing the Web, communicating with friends via Facebook and doing homework,” she continues. “This does not mean that students are any less social; in fact, they are often interacting with more people than if they were sitting in a dining room, but the method of that socialization is now directly connected to new media.”
    
Varno also found out that people were more likely to ask friends on Facebook or Twitter about recipes than consult a cookbook and that they often used social media to judge the importance and legitimacy of food and nutrition information.
    
“While some respondents expressed concern at the sheer volume of food information available online, they also indicated that the use of Facebook and Twitter to quickly validate data made them feel more informed about making the right choices,” Varno adds.
    
Like any good social scientist Varno hopes that her results will lead to additional studies with larger sample sizes that could further examine how new media is altering eating habits among the larger population.
    
So there you have it folks, more proof that people’s preference to be plugged in to their devices is changing the way they do things, and not exactly for the better. Since when is it necessary to get everyone in your social media circle involved when you eat? Would these people like it better if their machines provided the nutrition for them? Do they want smart phones to shovel baby food into their mouths?

Is this bad news? It’s hard to say, but do you really think people’s constant desire to be plugged into their gadgets is a good thing? If you can’t take a break from social media and digital toys while you are eating, what does that say about you?

It’s just more evidence that for some people smart phones and social media are like a drug addiction. Not exactly happy news, but hey it’s just the reality that we’re living in. Technology doesn’t always make a person smarter and more efficient, that’s just what the ads say.

Just because you post it on social media doesn't make it important. People love technology because it gives them opportunity to make trivial things seem more important than they are. Nobody should care what you are eating, nobody needs real-time updates about what you are eating. If you want nutrition facts read the packaging that the food came in, ok?

If you want to make eating a social event then invite people over for dinner. Unplug from the matrix once and a while you dummies. I mean what's next? A Jersey Shore social media spaghetti app? Share your social media meals the Jersey Shore way!

It's an interesting study, but it just shows that technology is distracting people more than it is freeing them. That's not cool.