The discovery of information is limited to the personal individual. Social media platforms like Instagram utilize the explore page to captivate users by curating the feed to what is assumed to be an interest (Instagram, n.d.). In doubtfully creating an echo chamber for the user. If a user is drawn to a specific topic or area, the feed and explore page will automatically be adapted to what is desired (Instagram, n.d.).
Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook put a high focus on imagery. The type of imagery being portrayed on explore pages and feeds put an overemphasis on appearance (Boepple et al., 2016). For example, if a user is considering or interested in fad dieting, their explore page and feed would be groomed to show images and videos catered to fad diets (Instagram, n.d.).
Fad dieting is a term coined to describe diets that are popular and trending in social media (Spadine & Patterson, 2022). For example, fad diets include intermittent fasting, ketogenic, and clean eating (Spadine & Patterson, 2022). Fad diets have been utilized to incentivize individuals to follow restrictive diets to obtain the “ideal” aesthetic body (Spadine & Patterson, 2022). Many fads pose on the essence of being a quick fix rather than discussing the short and or long-term consequences (Spadine & Patterson, 2022). The perception that fad diets will promote wellness is high awareness whereas consequences are left unknown (Ambwani et al., 2020; Boepple et al., 2016). Therefore, awareness levels of possible complications like eating disorders and health deterioration are excluded from general discussion (Boepple et al., 2016).
A study conducted by Ambwani et al. (2020) investigated an individual’s knowledge, perception, and familiarity with “clean eating”. Ambwani et al. (2020) found that of 1020 participants, 50% of participants had heard about clean eating through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Participants expressed high recognition of the positive attributes and benefits to clean eating, however, demonstrated little awareness of potential risks (Ambwani et al., 2020). Therefore, indicating a high level of discrepancy between the potential benefits and risks of dieting.
Social media influencers and celebrities promote the newest novelties to encourage a consumer-based society, thus, permitting a subtle echo of ideals for individuals to follow (Ambwani et al., 2020; Passos & Santos, 2020). Whether intentional or not, the essence of the platform informs users to hone similar ideals and create groups with similar beliefs based on the information presented (Passos & Santos, 2020).
A scary aspect of social media is the impact and influence it has on individuals. As a female who has grown up under the microscope of the different fads and trends on social media, I know what it feels like. However, the fact that social media is impacting the lives of the younger generation of children and young adolescents is concerning. The over-saturation and emphasis on appearance are disheartening.
I work with young children and adolescents. I listen to their daily rants, problems, and arguments. But one day, I was listening to them complain about their bodies. It was horrible.
It was after the social media release of the Met Gala 2022, that Kim Kardashian lost 16 pounds in 3 weeks to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s famous dress (Bell, 2022). The young group of girls were comparing their own bodies to the ones they saw on social media. They were expressing their own dissatisfaction with their bodies. They expressed how they could solve all their problems like Kim Kardashian if they could stick to her strict diet of no sugar and no carbs (Bell, 2022). They assured me there were lots of recipes and methods to support their ideas because their Instagram feeds and Tik Toc reels were full of dieting inspirations and quick tips to motivate their change.
All their knowledge was based on the information being displayed on their social media platforms. They were highly aware of ideas that could change how they looked but had little awareness of any concerns. Their social media had become their own echo chamber focusing on fads of changing their body in one way.
Therefore, if users are looking for information and content based on a certain topic, their feeds and explore pages will adapt and echo what is being desired (Instagram, n.d.). Thus, the feeds and explore pages act as a platform to confirm users’ confirmation bias; meaning, their search for information is being curated to their original beliefs and thoughts.
Although information may be available in the grand scheme of the internet, social media platforms are customizable to the users. Thus, lacking the larger scope of information makes the user uninformed. The information seen on social media is designed to be what the user desires. Overall, users are exposed to an overwhelming amount of curated information that may be created on partial truths, deep fakes, cheap fakes, and misinformation tactics (Anderson & Rainie, 2020).
The demographic space of social media floods users with biased information rather than presenting a full picture. Thus, users have to be informed and aware of their biases.
Ambwani, S., Sellinger, G., Rose, K. L., Richmond, T. K., & Sonneville, K. R. (2020). “It’s healthy because it’s natural.” Perceptions of “clean” eating among U.S. adolescents and emerging adults. Nutrients, 12(6), 1708. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061708
Anderson, J., & Rainie, L. (2020, February 21). Many tech experts say digital disruption will hurt democracy. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/02/21/many-tech-experts-say-digital-disruption-will-hurt-democracy/
Bell, B. A. (2022, July 9). Kim Kardashian’s met gala diet sent her to a rheumatologist for psoriatic arthritis: ‘I was freaking out’. People Magazine. https://people.com/health/kim-kardashians-met-gala-diet-sent-her-to-a-rheumatologist-for-psoriatic-arthritis/
Boepple, L., Ata, R. N., Rum, R., & Thompson, J. K. (2016). Strong is the new skinny: A content analysis of fitspiration websites. Body Image, 17, 132–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.001
Instagram. (n.d). How Instagram feed works. Help Center. Retrieved November 5, 2022, from https://help.instagram.com/1986234648360433
Spadine, M., & Patterson, M. S. (2022). Social influence on fad diet use: A systematic literature review. Nutrition and Health, 28(3), 369–388. https://doi.org/10.1177/02601060211072370
Passos, J. A., Vasconcellos-Silva, P. R., & Santos, L. A. da S. (2020). Cycles of attention to fad diets and internet search trends by google trends. Ciência & Saude Coletiva, 25(7), 2615–2631. https://doi.org/10.1590/1413-81232020257.23892018