3 ways Social Media and Advertising Influences habits and Health


Rewind time to 2011. Remember the Peta Ad that was banned from the superbowl for being too “racy”? If you don’t, let me remind you and break down  3 reasons how social media can influence your habits.

First take a second to see the master piece for yourself:

What did you notice? What was the message?

If you were occupied with the lingerie clad woman and the canoodling of vegetables, than Peta did it’s job. The message delivered in this video is “Studies show, vegetarians have better sex” but the real question is why was this so effective and why was it so controversial enough to be banned?

Food is a social experience and often times our choices reflect what our society values. In the Peta Ad, woman in sexy lingerie are just that, sexy. So, vegetables held by sexy women are by proxy SEXY! So, this leads to us delving into 3 reasons how social media can influence your eating habits or habits in general.

1.) It appeals to your emotions. By inciting feeling of love, or even sexual arousal, social media can affect our eating habits and can connect certain messages with more pleasant somatic feelings. We as practitioners can steer people towards healthier habits by coupling it with socially accepted norms.

2.) It creates a faux electronic environment of peer pressure. No one wants to stand out. As humans we are social beings and with that, the more something is portrayed as negative or un-favorable the more people will steer away from it. Let’s take a look at another food inspired ad that’s gone “viral” to create healthy drug free habits. Visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub_a2t0ZfTs&feature=kp. What did you notice? If the harsh tapping of the egg on the cast iron pan didn’t make your cringe than the eggs being scrambled must of definitely let you an impression as to what drugs can do. It can also make you fearful of what happens to you if you choose to associate with it so as practitioners, getting advertising to go “viral” can add an additional layer of pressure to create behavior and health change.

3.) Makes you feel as “one” of the pack. Once again humans are social beings and as a result we like to engage with one another. By making advertising social, one can create the illusion that the activities associated with the advertising equate being social and popular. As health practitioners, we can use this to our advantage like Joe Camel was able to infiltrate cigarettes into society. Although Joe Camel negatively influenced youth to consider smoking as “sexy”, ad’s like the ones with teenagers at parties getting hurt create the opposite effect and influences teenagers to steer away from drugs/alcohol.

So how can we use communications to change health? Applying social contextual rules to advertising on sites like facebook, youtube, and twitter can help appeal to the masses by creating a more personal and distinguishable experience versus the everyday that one may get.






4 thoughts on “3 ways Social Media and Advertising Influences habits and Health

  1. Very Interesting post Lakshmi. I have been a vegetarian for 30-something years and it’s hard to imagine eating meeting again. But I can really relate to the issues you cite in your post, especially feeling like the “picky eater” when eating out with groups of people who mostly do eat meat, or answering seemingly unending questions about why I didn’t eat meat. I eventually felt comfortable telling people that it was just a choice I made because I preferred it, and that it didn’t say anything about what I thought other people should do. I don’t judge others for eating meat, and expect them not to judge me either. I hope that it will eventually become comfortable for you to articulate to others that your decision to begin eating meat is a personal choice that you have every right to make. And keep in mind that it is often difficult for parents to see their children (even grown) to make choices that differ from the family norm. But it’s your life and your choices and hopefully they will adjust and respect your decisions.

  2. I’ve also felt the peer pressure you mention in your post having been vegetarian since 14 years old as my personal choice for health, not religion or any physical or medical reasons. It was the mid 1990s then and vegetarianism wasn’t as “mainstream” as it is now. it didn’t help that I got into UC Berkeley a few years later. 😉 My traditional Taiwanese dad still thinks I eat turkey and fish. Like Sharon I also feel that a root issue is not the diet choice, it’s being perceived as different from the norm.

  3. I came from a family who ate vegetarian food. Now, I eat meat. In the beginning, I was kind of “discriminated” because I did not eat meat. I agree peer pressure plays a big role in what we eat. PETA’s video is powerful. It does glamorize and sensualize the concepts. I really think it is effective.

    • Thanks for you comment. I definitely understand your background as I come from a vegetarian family and have found challenges transitioning. The Peta videos are quite funny and I can see how they can be quite controversial!

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