Looking at too many filtered images of food can make it less enjoyable to eat, new research from Brigham Young University claims.
According to the study, people who view numerous images of food on Instagram or Pinterest can actually feel like they’ve eaten that food.
Scientist say “sensory boredom,” is the cause, and relates to satiation, or a decrease in enjoyment with repeated consumption. So, looking at your friends’ pictures of salad can make your own lettuce-heavy lunch seem much less tasty.
Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Be Bad
It’s not just related to food. Studies have shown that repeated consumption of video games lowers players’ satisfaction the longer they are engaged in a game.
So, if prolonged attention to food porn and video games is affecting our enjoyment, does spending our time taking or admiring photos online actually detract from our offline experiences?
This so-called sensory boredom, or over stimulation that leads to a decrease in enjoyment, isn’t a new development resulting from spending too much time on Instagram or Pinterest. Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, notes that similar techniques are already present in behavior therapies, such as overcoming weaknesses for chocolate or different phobias.
In terms of social media, looking repeatedly at the same pictures eventually desensitizes you. For example, your Pinterest board replete with images laying out your dream Hawaiian vacation could negatively affect your enjoyment when you finally set foot on the Big Island.
“If you look at the same 60 pictures, it will diminish your desire to travel if you haven’t booked your trip yet, or when you get there you’ll have expectations based on the photos,” Dr. Rutledge said. And often, our experiences don’t meet our expectations.
However, most people use pin boards and Instagram photos for cursory reviews, not in-depth trip planning. So the affect of viewing a few images at a time becomes exciting and motivating.
“If you have a specific image or thing you’re trying to emulate, you’ll be disappointed,” Dr. Rutledge said. “But if you set out to have an experience, you’ll be satisfied.”
A study released earlier this year from the University of Michigan suggests that spending time on Facebook negatively affects your mood. Specifically how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives.
The research concluded that interacting with people directly made people feel better, however observing interactions without partaking led to negative feelings. Dr. Rutledge likens this to the feeling of being left out of a group of friends on a playground, a feeling many people experienced growing up.
She notes, however, that it’s a lack of social transparency that could be fueling these negative emotions.
It’s quite common for most people to only post the best parts of their lives. While evidence suggests people are largely honest with what they share with friends online, much of that honesty is aspirational.
“It may be that when people only put up their aspirational selves, it makes us unhappy because it blocks us from seeing who they really are,” she said.
Instead Of Looking, Go Experience
Social media continues to be growing part of our daily lives. And while some people might be thrilled at the idea of Instagram making them eat less, significant desensitization to images could become a problem in the long run.
What all these studies point to essentially is: enjoy and share moments online, but maintain control of the time you spend looking at them. Social media can support exploration and feelings of excitement, but too much of a good thing can ultimately lead to dissatisfaction in the end.
Image courtesy of Instagram.