Social Media and Food

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Editors: Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner
Date: 2011
Food: In Context
From: Food: In Context(Vol. 2. )
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Series: In Context Series
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 3
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Social Media and Food


Social media are media with user-generated content that are generally accessible to everyone, usually through the Internet or mobile communication devices. Examples would be blogs, podcasts, and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Flickr. Though a recent phenomenon, social media has impacted many aspects of food culture and learning by connecting people all over the globe who share an interest in cooking.

Historical Background and Scientific Foundations

Sharing food is commonly an important aspect of human interaction. People all over the world have exchanged recipes at parties, brought dishes to potlucks, or contributed a dish to a wedding or social gathering. The advent of the Internet removed the barrier of distance from communication, and in doing so greatly accelerated the global exchange of ideas. This exchange included the sharing of ideas about food, often through social media. Social media refers to media in which users generate the content, whereas in classic media professional writers, editors, and producers create the content. Some social media sites, such as Wikipedia, have rigorous community fact checking, review, and debate to try and ensure the accuracy of all the information presented. Other media, such as public forums and blogs, are completely unfiltered. The result is a large amount of information that must be navigated with critical thought.

Along with the development of social media came another new phenomenon, called micro-communities. A micro-community is a group of people that share a similar interest and communicate about that interest on the Internet. Similar to a traditional book club or car club, the Internet has enabled people who share similar interests to meet and communicate regardless of where they live. It is via micro-communities of food enthusiasts that recipes and techniques from all over the world have been shared so quickly. There are quite literally millions of cooking forums on the Internet: A quick Google search for “cooking forum” yields more than 25 million hits. Not all are forums, but it demonstrates the popularity of the concept.

Impacts and Issues

Whereas the Internet allows access to a wide variety of information and opinions, anyone with access to a computer may post opinions and ideas online. The absence of any kind of review or fact checking process means that there is a great deal of information on the Internet that is false or simply incorrect. The concept of legislating the Internet, however, is a difficult and controversial topic. The debate is much less severe when it comes to food, because the concept of an “incorrect” recipe is debatable. When there are multiple recipes for a certain dish, it is almost impossible to assert which one is the “correct” recipe. What is more important is that a cook finds a recipe that results in the final product he or she desires, and on the Internet one can find many recipes for the same dish, allowing the cook to experiment and try different techniques. Seeing multiple recipes can also be helpful for creating one's own version of a recipe, because seeing different ideas can help spark a new idea of one's own.

Micro-communities have had a wide-ranging impact. Advertisers have discovered that micro-communities have singled themselves out as being interested in certain topics, and marketers constantly work on finding new ways of targeting specific micro-communities with advertisements for products related to their interest. In fact, many forum hosts and bloggers are able to earn income by selling advertising space on their websites. For example, if one were to visit a popular cooking forum, most likely there would be ads on the side of the page for cookbooks or kitchen tools. In addition, some micro-communities allow for certain small businesses to Page 722  |  Top of Articleoperate. As an example, there are several independent street-food vendors in New York City that are run by a single owner-operator, and have only one truck from which they can sell their food. Fans of these vendors sign up to follow the vendor's Twitter feed, and every day the vendor posts on the website where he or she will be operating that day. Those who have signed up will receive the message on their phones or computers, so they will know where to go to find the street vendor's truck.

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BLOG: Short-hand term for the word weblog, which is a site in which one can write articles, news posts, or diary entries, either to be shared publicly or for only a select few friends.

MICRO-COMMUNITIES: Groups of people who communicate on the Internet and via social media that come together based upon a shared interest regardless of the physical distance between them; for example, people in different countries who are car enthusiasts or fans of an artist that communicate on a public message board.

PODCASTS: Spoken word shows, similar to talk radio shows, that are recorded and posted on the Internet for download. The word is derived from the name of Apple's “iPod” mp3 player. Whereas many podcasts are homemade, some traditional radio stations record their shows and post them as podcasts on the Internet for fans to download.

California dairy farmer Ray Prock uses Twitter while working in order to connect with consumers. Prock and other farmers established AgChat Foundation, which encourages farmers to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other Web sites to reach out California dairy farmer Ray Prock uses Twitter while working in order to connect with consumers. Prock and other farmers established AgChat Foundation, which encourages farmers to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other Web sites to reach out to the public. AP Images.

Another area of traditional media that social media is taking over is reviewing restaurants. Traditionally a restaurant would receive a review from a local newspaper, and that review would stand until the newspaper decided to review the restaurant again. On the Internet there are many different websites that review restaurants, and many of them are simply a collection of reviews written by users of the site. This again encounters the issue of the veracity of information on the Internet. Anyone can post a review, whether they have eaten at a restaurant or not. Sometimes false negative or false positive reviews will be posted for myriad different reasons. However, if a website is popular enough to have a large number of reviews, one can get a picture of average public opinion of the restaurant. Some review sites, such as the user reviews on Google Maps, Yelp!, and OpenTable (which also serves as a means of reserving a table at a restaurant Page 723  |  Top of Articlevia the Internet) are so popular that they are becoming more trusted than the reviews given by traditional media. This has opened up the market for restaurants that serve simple day-to-day fare, because it avoids the bias in traditional media towards favoring sophisticated cuisine. If a restaurant is reviewed and given no stars, but the reviews online have multiple comments along the lines of simple food but well cooked,” the online reviews may attract customers who, prior to the Internet, would have overlooked the restaurant due to its low rating.

In addition to the blogs about food and cooking, another common blog topic is nutrition. There are numerous blogs that discuss basic nutrition information, tips on what dishes at popular restaurants are healthier choices, and so on. Often nutrition blogs will point out the dangers of eating at fast food restaurants on a regular basis. Whereas fast food restaurants do publish the nutrition facts of all of their meals, most people do not understand the implication of that information and how should impact their decisions. These blogs are raising awareness about dietary needs in an attempt to persuade people to make more healthful eating choices.



Dooher, Carrie. Using Social Media in FDA-Regulated Industries: The Essential Guide. Washington, DC: FDLI, 2010.

Jacob, Dianne. Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Lifelong, 2010.

Lewis, Sara E., and William T. Ross. Marketing Health Food: The Strategic and Ethical Marketing Plan UtilizingSocial Media. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010.

Powell, Julie. Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2005.

Web Sites

“Best of the Food Blogs.” (accessed October 18, 2010).

Open Table. (accessed October 18, 2010).

David Brennan Tilove

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Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX1918600218