Instagram is a free photo-sharing application that enables Instagram users to share photos on the numbers of social medias. There are millions of users who share food photos. Scientists at the University of Washington conducted a study on it.
They showed how some people share their photos to track food intake or to be held accountable by followers in meeting healthy eating or weight loss goals. They involved 16 people who consistently record and share what they eat on Instagram.
Whenever participants snapped pictures of what they ate in a day, instead of using a traditional food journal or app to write, they used the #fooddiary or #foodjournal hashtags. Some of them also used the photos as a reference so they could remember to log their food later in the day.
Lead author, Christina Chung said, “It’s more fun to do than taking out a booklet or typing hundreds of words of description in an app. Additionally, it’s more socially appropriate for people who are trying to track their diets to snap a photo of their plate when they’re out with friends—everyone’s doing it and it doesn’t look weird.”
Senior author Sean Munson said, “When you only have one data point for a pizza or donut, it’s easy to rationalize that away as a special occasion. But when you see a whole tiled grid of them, you have to say to yourself, ‘Wait, I don’t actually have that many special days.”
Participants reported it helps them stick to their own tracking and healthy eating goals. In some cases, feeling accountable to other Instagram users and followers caused people to be more honest about their eating habits.
A woman who previously used the MyFitnessPal app to track her diet said, “With Instagram, it helped me because I was taking a picture of it—it’s real and it does exist and it does count towards what I was eating. And then putting up a visual image of it really helped me stay honest.”
Participants also report that some tensions between wanting to remain honest about what they ate and feeling reluctant to food photos that would be perceived as undesirable.
A user can create different accounts for different purposes under the same user profile. According to the interests, anyone can easily find communities and followers with similar interests.
Study reports, users who had to lose weight found to help mentors and encourage others for fitness goals. Thus, it gets easy for them to maintain the consistency about mindfulness about their health.
Munson said, “Maintenance becomes pretty boring for a lot of people because your quest to hit a goal has worn off. This made things more interesting and meaningful for people because after they got to their goal, they turned to thinking about how they could help others and stay accountable to people who were relying on them for support.”