How young people's decisions about food are influenced by their use of social media in New Zealand

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dc.contributor.advisor Day, Karen Ray, Saswata 2023-11-13T20:45:55Z 2023-11-13T20:45:55Z 2023 en
dc.description.abstract Introduction: There is increased exposure to food-related content through various media (e.g., television), including the addition of social media (SM), which can influence food decisions. Healthy food choices can positively affect physical and mental wellbeing, whereas wrong food choices may have short term or long-term ill effects on human health. Young adults, being the largest user group of SM, the overall aim of the research is to explore how young peoples’ (18-25 years of age) decisions about food are influenced by their use of SM in New Zealand (NZ). A literature review exploring the influence of SM on food decisions has revealed how food-related information in terms of recipes; visually attractive food pictures; ordering online food can influence multiple food decisions in a day for a user. But in those studies, the influence of those aspects is explored individually, and an integrative approach of exploration is missing. In addition, limited research is available from the NZ context. To fill this research gap, in my doctoral research considering multiple avenues of influence, I have explored how young people’s decisions about food are influenced by their use of SM in NZ. In addition to exploring various influences of SM on food decisions, I have also explored young adults’ critical understanding of SM and if the users are considering the healthfulness of the food as they get influenced by SM and decide to consume the food. These inclusions were done for a wholesome understanding of the research topic. Methods: A sequential, exploratory, mixed methods research design was employed. A meta-narrative literature review informed about four artefacts as potential avenues that may influence the users. The four artefacts are: food-related information on SM; online food bloggers and influencers; SM marketing and online food ordering; food pictures and SM regarding visual hunger. In my research, I conducted three studies to explore different food-related interactions on SM, resulting in possible influences. In the first study, data was collected through semi-structured interviews (N=15). The analysis helped to understand the possible influences in more depth. The analysis also resulted in the draft survey questionnaire, covering issues and concerns related to these online interactions influencing food decisions. The questionnaire was finalised in the second study involving experts (N=8) via a modified Delphi process and through cognitive interviews (N=8) involving young adults. In the third study, data was collected (N=523) through an online survey for descriptive and multivariate quantitative analysis. The multivariate analyses included feature encoding methods, factor analysis and principal component analysis. Findings: Study 1 helped to identify 16 scenarios (encompassing the four artefacts), which create possibilities of offline food consumption being influenced by various food-related SM interactions. In Study 3, through quantitative analyses, the survey results revealed that for 34% of the population SM occasionally influenced them to decide what to eat, whereas 24% of the population self-reported that they very rarely were influenced. Most young adults (70%) reported checking the veracity of the food information they read on SM about food, and a similar proportion considered healthfulness when they decided to consume food when influenced by SM. The multivariate analyses showed that a young adult can be influenced as an SM user for their food decisions through one or more artefacts. Five principal components contributed to identifying key highlights of this phenomenon generated through the analyses of 523 responses gathered through the survey. • Active engagements on SM (e.g., likes, posting food-related content, comments, following) make them prone to offline food consumption • Users do prefer to cross-check food-related information and claims made by diet plans • Brand loyalty is cherished when there is online recognition by a brand; that does not always lead to buying their product • Users prefer easy to cook visually appealing food and would promote such food images consciously • SM suggestions for restaurants are preferred when they serve favoured food items. Discussion: Through analysis of the interviews in Study 1 it was evident that SM has power to influence food decisions in many ways. The analysis in Study 3 helped to understand further ‘how’ SM is being instrumental in influencing food decisions. The findings of my study resonate with the findings of studies where SM is identified as a powerful medium to influence food decisions in various degrees. All the artefacts were identified as instrumental in influencing food decisions, individually or in different combinations. Out of all the artefacts, visually attractive food pictures were identified to influence the user behaviour in multiple ways. Similar to the findings of other studies, attractive looking pictures influence food decisions. Users prefer to post such pictures for receiving online recognition through likes and comments from other users, boosting their gratification. To conclude, the strength of my thesis lies in engaging young adults who are the chosen population of my study in all the three studies for better understanding their behaviour; transparent reporting of steps of all the studies, analysis and research outcomes. The results of this study not only informed about how SM is being instrumental in influencing food decisions but also reported about the level of critical understanding of SM and if the young adults are considering healthfulness while they decide to eat, contributing to a wholesome understanding. The findings of my study can inform professionals who are engaged with providing dietary suggestions and interventions for young adults regarding how SM is playing a role in their day-to-day food decision making. The findings can also contribute to the understanding and highlight the importance of including SM in food media literacy. Lastly, the findings can inform policies to regulate SM sites in future.
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof PhD Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.
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dc.title How young people's decisions about food are influenced by their use of social media in New Zealand
dc.type Thesis en Health Science The University of Auckland en Doctoral en PhD en 2023-11-08T04:34:41Z
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The author en
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