AAAI Publications, Tenth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media

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Fetishizing Food in Digital Age: #foodporn Around the World
Yelena Mejova, Sofiane Abbar, Hamed Haddadi

Last modified: 2016-03-31


What food is so good as to be considered pornographic? Worldwide, the popular #foodporn hashtag has been used to share appetizing pictures of peoples' favorite culinary experiences. But social scientists ask whether #foodporn promotes an unhealthy relationship with food, as pornography would contribute to an unrealistic view of sexuality. In this study, we examine nearly 10 million Instagram posts by 1.7 million users worldwide. An overwhelming (and uniform across the nations) obsession with chocolate and cake shows the domination of sugary dessert over local cuisines. Yet, we find encouraging traits in the association of emotion and health-related topics with #foodporn, suggesting food can serve as motivation for a healthy lifestyle. Social approval also favors the healthy posts, with users posting with healthy hashtags having an average of 1,000 more followers than those with unhealthy ones. Finally, we perform a demographic analysis which shows nation-wide trends of behavior, such as a strong relationship (r=0.51) between the GDP per capita and the attention to healthiness of their favorite food. Our results expose a new facet of food "pornography", revealing potential avenues for utilizing this precarious notion for promoting healthy lifestyles.

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