Food Practices: Beyond Hunger: A Social & Psychological Perspective - Research Paper

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1866 Words
Date:  2023-01-09


Around the world, food practices such as cooking and eating habits are socially, culturally, and historically embedded in our daily lives. It is commonly believed that people eat because of an internal state of mind known as hunger. However, the current changes in food practices, mainly eating patterns are proving that the drive behind eating behaviors is more complex (Ali, Gjylbegaj, & Balfagieh, 2017). Psychologic hunger is motivated by external cues, which may include smell and sight of food. With the increasing use of social media, specifically, Instagram to post what we eat, the influence on food practices is undeniable. As a result, the impulsivity created by food cravings has caused eating disorders and changing of food culture across the world. Everyday activities on Instagram include posting pictures of tempting food. Food and diet bloggers have even designed a name for it; "food porn" (Rodrigues, 2016). The United Arab Emirates has also embraced the use of social media, which has prompted various changes in their culture as well as society. While Twitter has been under the spotlight in the region for playing a part in the pro-democracy violent demonstrations in several countries, Instagram has received equal attention concerning changing food practices, especially among the Emirate youth. This study aims to investigate the influence of Instagram in changing eating habits and patterns in the region.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Understanding Consumer Decision Making Process

Before evaluating how social media effect has influenced the type of foods consumed in the UAE, it is crucial to understand the process of purchase decision making and the influence of social media on consumer behavior. The decision making the process for the consumers of food in the region follows the %-Step Decision Making Process formulated by Paul Nutt. The model breaks the process into five steps namely problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, final decision, and post-purchase decisions. Only the first four steps are crucial for this study.

Problem recognition is the first step, which is, also known as need recognition where a consumer recognizes the existence of a desire to be fulfilled. As mentioned earlier, the need to eat can be stimulated by hunger or external stimuli such as advertisement. Interestingly, the second stimuli cause the highest number of impulsive purchases of food from fast food restaurants, especially by the youth. Because external stimulus creates the desire to consume food among the Emirati youth, the second step of the information search is usually not necessary.

The next step in the decision-making process is the evaluation of alternatives. One feature among all social media platforms is that they use geographic information of the user to bring the best adverts. Instagram uses this logic for advertising businesses, in this case, restaurant, that is close to the users. Having liked a picture of food, Instagram automatically brings similar images on the users' timeline. This makes the process of evaluating alternatives much easier especially for the tech-savvy youth. The different available options are selected or eliminated using different evaluative criteria such as "Insta-worthiness" of the food, ambiance, and popularity of the restaurant. After considering all these factors, the consumers can narrow down their choice to a final decision. The main intention of the purchase is to have the perfect food picture that can attract lots of likes and comments on Instagram.

The Influence of Social Media on Consumer Behavior

The impact of social media on consumer behavior among the Emirati is a topic that is slowly attracting the attention of several researchers in recent years. Some of the notable works include "How Instagram is engaging Millennials in the Middle East" by Sunil (2018) and "Social Media Fashion among Digitally Fluent Young Arabic Women in the UAE" by (Strong & Hareb, 2012). The issue of social media uses and how it influences bloggers in the region mainly cover food practices. There is an evident increase in the use of social media among the Emirati people especially to make their purchases decision. Ali, Gjylbegaj, & Balfagieh, (2017) argued that the two main reasons for the trend to be immediate access to information created by social media, and increased accessibility of the platforms. This has resulted in a more natural and faster purchase decision-making process. This is even more so among the youth.

The increasing use of celebrities to endorse food products on Instagram is one of the reasons why consumer behavior among the Emirati youth is changing to more impulsive buying of foods. A recent study by Ali et al. (2018) revealed Instagram food ads endorsed by famous people generate more pleasure for consumers than those recommended by food experts. The main reason for this trend is that because the youth idolizes the celebrities, eating food that they endorse make them feel closer to them or relating to their lifestyles. Besides, food ads endorsed by celebrities usually contains high levels of visually complex cues to attract an even larger audience. The effect of celebrity-endorsed food marketing is that people are less concerned about what they are consuming concentrating more on living like the famous people and posting on Instagram for people to see, like and comment.

Eating With Our Eye More Than Ever

In 2017, a study by Ali, Gjylbegaj, & Balfagieh revealed that 54 percent of people aged between 18-24 years have taken photos of their food and posted them online while eating out. This percentage can only be expected to have increased since the research. With the increasing popularity of visual content media platforms, specifically Instagram, the millennials have gradually shifted their intentions of visiting restaurants from just eating and sharing a meal with friends to going for the perfect picture of the food. Ali et al. (2018) commented that the youngsters eat with their eyes more than anything else citing the increasing number of food photos on Instagram as evidence. A food blogger based in UAE said that food representation is one of the fastest growing trends on Instagram. Because a picture speaks a thousand words, most people do not even bother to look at the captions that accompany the food pictures. As a result, many restaurants are paying more attention to the presentation of their offering more than flavor and nutrient content.

According to Rodrigues (2016), the regional director of Zomato (a restaurant search service based in the UAE) reports that people upload six times more pictures on the platform than written reviews. The director revealed that most people, especially Emirati youth choose the restaurants to eat based on 'Insta-worthiness' of the establishment as well as their food. Unsurprisingly, the top searches on Zomato by the young generation are for fine dining restaurants and bakeries. These two types of establishments account for the highest percentage of food photographs posted on Instagram. An example of how Instagram has influenced the type of food in the UAE is the now popular freakshakes. The 'click first, eat later' phenomenon is the reason why the eye catching dish is so popular in the region. Originally, from Australia, freakshakes are oversize milkshakes brimming with candy, cakes, popcorns, cookies, or anything that you can wrap your mind around. The milkshakes became a trend immediately after they were introduced. Consequently, several restaurants in the region followed the trend with various innovations added to the dish as well as fancy names such as 'monster shakes.'

Using Social Media to Find the Right Restaurant

According to Amon (2019), the Middle East boast of over 50,000 restaurants, 17,000 of these restaurants are found within the UAE and more than half being located in Dubai alone. This implies that restaurant users in the region have an overwhelming number of options to choose from. Because most of the Emirati youth and young adults are tech savvy, they usually browse through the possibilities using social media to understand the ambiance, menus, and prices of the various restaurant before they can even visit. Their decision to try out an establishment is primarily influenced by the food pictures they post on Instagram. Because the restaurant chains know this, they use the social platform to stimulate their potential customers' appetite. Some have even gone a step further by collaborating with food bloggers and social media influencers to give their customers a visual preview of what they should expect. This trend has raised the concern of whether having an excellent online reputation always correlates with good food. While researchers re-divided among this concern, it is evident that there is a correlation between the quality of food and reputation of a restaurant online. However, it is essential to note that by quality food, the youngsters refer to the tastiness of the items with no concern for the nutrient content, more specifically calorie content.

The discrepancy between the meaning of quality food by the younger generations was revealed in research by Al Junaibi et al. (2013). In the study, the researchers were investigating the prevalence and potential determinants of obesity among school-going children, adolescents, and college students in Abu Dhabi. The study found that cases of obesity are higher in the age group of between 16 to 20 years at 41.6 percent, which compares to 24.8 percent for the age group of 6-10 years. Fast foods were associated with the highest incidences among obese teenagers. Over 60 percent of fast food users reported to have been stimulated by food photographs posted either on Instagram of food blogs (Johnson, 2017).

Additionally, they said that 'Insta-worthiness' of the food makes them regular customers at their preferred food outlets. What is considered "Insta-worthy" is not always a healthy option. The earlier mentioned regional director of Zomato reported that healthy ways of eating are not regarded as fashionable by the Emirati youth. As a result, many of them are ordering more food than they require to get food snaps for their Instagram which causes more wasteful use of among the millennials.

Wow-Factor Foods

In 2017, The Spectator, a British weekly magazine that features journalists, ran a cartoon that summarized the current situation of food consumption; a bothered-looking waitress asking a dining couple if everything was okay. Reason? They had not taken any photographs of their food. This piece indicated how normal waiters and chefs take the act of taking pictures of food by their customers. Unfortunately, it is not the waiter or the chefs who are to blame for this. Nowadays, it is rare to find people going to a restaurant just for the food and good company of their families or friends. It is hard to remember a time when people did not give much thought of how the food looked like or the lighting of a restaurant. The chefs have also taken note of the changes and are now concentrating on the presentation of the foods to create the "wow-factor" dishes (Gomes, 2018). Across the UAE, chefs are pushing their boundaries to make food covered in gold including supersized burgers, which are loaded with calorie-packed toppings, the earlier mentioned monster size milkshakes, and cappuccinos topped with sheaves of 23-karat gold among other "Insta-worthy" foods.

A sad trend is that not only are the chefs striving to create the perfect presentation at the expanse of crafting healthy options, but even culinary institutes have also given in to the pressure of Instagram effect. In the United States, the Culinary Institute of America introduced two elective courses to its curriculum...

Cite this page

Food Practices: Beyond Hunger: A Social & Psychological Perspective - Research Paper. (2023, Jan 09). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism