Diet Culture in Futuristic Technology - MY TAKE podcast
Today’s episode refers to topics including diet, weight, eating disorders and mental health. If any of these topics are stressful to you, please continue with caution. For help, see the show notes for this episode, and do not hesitate to reach out.
Hello, and welcome to the first podcast by Grace Lilian. It’s something new I’m trying out, getting my foot in the door of the latest trends. And if all goes well, we might find ourselves with a regular series. For now: grab a coffee or tea, kick back, and let’s dive into it. My name is Grace, and you’re listing to My Take.
So, let’s start with a bang: participatory culture. You may have heard of it before, but in case you haven’t, here’s my definition: it’s essentially the idea that we, as tech users, are both producers and consumers. We post, share, like, comment and repost images and videos with the pure objective of being involved. Naturally, some people are better at participating than others. And some, well, are better at leading it. Think about influencers – on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat – even Tumblr back in the day. They post anything, and within seconds, people have commented ‘first,’ just to prove how continually online they are. So, when any of these influencers post pro-diet content, it’s no wonder people swarm to engage so quickly. These influencers are really just connecting with followers because it’s never a one-way street on social media. Kim Kardashian– with her appetite suppressing lollipops in 2018 – is the perfect example (Unknown, 2018). The media was torn whether to support her not, but at the end of the day, participation was there – regardless.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, there was a man named George Herbert Mead, whose theory I believe – is pretty important in this discussion. He basically came up with the idea that children take on the role of another when playing, in order to learn what they like and expect (Uknown, 2019). Now, I know most of us are far past the lunchtime bullrush games, but his theory can be associated with people using social media. I know I’ve done it: changing aspects of my Instagram bio or editing my pics in a different way to attract a certain audience. Have you ever done something similar?
Networks and Collective Intelligence
On a different note: wherever you are right now, silently raise one hand if you’ve been sucked into a calorie counting app that gives you a suggested intake based on ‘your requirements.’ Now lift the other hand if you got frustrated when that app couldn’t tell you how many calories were in a specific cookie from a specific café with a specific chocolate chip? Ah, if you have one or both hands up, same. If you don’t, lucky you. Fortunately, not all instances of calorie tracking are bad. Some people do it for strength gain, others to keep up their fruit intake. Some even use it just to understand why their body reacts to certain foods. Either way, the databases on these apps are the perfect example of collective intelligence. All these users inputting their knowledge on foods and nutrients into one place, for the benefit of other users. It’s genius, and its advantageous for everyone involved. The main individuals at play here, however, are the knowledge workers that form these apps behind the scenes. Knowledge workers, you ask? Yes, people in charge of handling and using information. In this case, they work in virtual teams, geographically dispersed, but sharing the same goals.
Community, Democracy, and Security
So, what happens to security when everyone is so connected through these particular apps and platforms? I’m not just taking about security between people, but security preventing certain audiences from gaining access to technology that is harmful. Have you ever been guilty of faking your date of birth when signing up to something? I know I did for several years when using MyFitnessPal as an 11-year-old. The app is only designed for 18+ users, but all you have to do is pretend you’re 18, and voila, you’re in! After passing this ‘age restriction,’ anybody of any age is exposed to ideas that have detrimental impacts on growth, body image and confidence. Of course, you still have the paywall to combat for premium features and exclusive recipes, but it’s a growing community. One, that while useful for some, is not appropriate for children. Yet, users are getting younger and younger the faster technology develops. What I want to know, is whether this security will get tougher, or if companies will opt to drop the age restrictions and rely on premium-user purchases to share the majority of their services.
But for a change of pace, I’d like to touch on another aspect of security that – in the scheme of things – is much younger. Blockchain – right after this break.
Communication with Mobile, Cloud and Blockchain
Four weeks ago, blockchain was one of those things I’d never given much thought to: something I’d heard in passing but didn’t see as relevant. But, after some digging into, it’s clear that has to change. If you’re unfamiliar, I’ll do my best to explain. Keeping in mind, it’s still a topic I’m grasping. But, from what I’ve gathered, it is essentially a specific form of security that allows select users to communicate using data found only in the chains that link the blocks. Cryptic, am I right? Think about this way: I use a blockchain to send you seven bitcoins. Your server recognises a key within that chain (or hash as it’s called) and allows you to send an NFT (non-refundable token) back, then my server does the same thing and allows me to except. With this exchange complete, we now have an unchangeable record of transactions that only we can access. If we decided to expand our blockchain to another user, their data will be seen on any future transactions.
You may be wondering how this is even relevant to diet culture – or diets in general. Well, it isn’t yet – but it sure is getting there. Over the past few years, blockchain has begun to imbed itself within Australia’s healthcare system. Although first designed for cryptocurrency, its benefits of transparency, privacy and low-cost have made it incentivised for holding healthcare records and patient medical histories (Blockchain Australia , 2022). Even this year, the lists of advantages have grown. There’s now talk of it being used in pharmacies, to bring up patient data and retrieve the correct medication (Prokofieva & Miah, 2019). It’s a way of ensuring information isn’t lost, stolen, and only shared with the people its intended for.
As for diet culture? Here’s my take. Apple Watch users can already invite friends to compete with closing their rings – like, minutes exercised and calories burned (Apple, 2022). A big part of diet culture – and by extension eating disorders – is the idea of excessive exercise. So, imagine if blockchain becomes the favoured ledger for these calorie burning competitions? The incentive of security for personal data, records and device IP addresses makes it a believable future, so perhaps blockchain is something we should all brush up on.
Hyping the Digital Divide
We’re all aware of globalisation. Living in this generation makes it unavoidable, no matter if we like it or not. It impacts our groceries, our social media, our clothing habits – especially when it comes to fast fashion, and of course it impacts our use of technology. Think about when you go on holiday. You’re in Bali, sipping cocktails and making all your friends jealous via an Instagram reel. 40 years ago, there’d be no way of doing that. Instead, you’d take a digital camera, snap some pics while you’re away, and then come back and have them printed. Imagine taking a selfie and not being able to check it straight away.
This sense of globalisation online may seem fantastic, but mobility comes with a disadvantage. It now means no escape – which sounds drastic, but it is the truth. We work from home, play from home, share from home. What don’t we do from home? Each and every one of us has access to platforms where we can share our lives and our ideas. Unfortunately, not everyone is digitally literature. Which means what? Exactly – a divide. A techno-barrier, as some might call it. See, the internet isn’t a global phenomenon in the sense that we know it. Some countries don’t have access and are therefore just left in the dirt.
India, for example, suffer from this digital divide more than other countries. I was reading just this week about the country’s status on internet usage. And – according to ITU’s World Telecommunication database - only 43% were actively online in 2020 (Lal, Abraham, Parikh, & Chhibber, 2015). I mean, if we’re comparing: 91% of Australians are online – so maybe we should be more thankful (Statista , 2022).
But before we wrap it up, let me touch on one more thing: can this digital divide actually be of benefit? In a way, yes. Without the constant connection, people can’t become as tangled in diet culture, body image and everything that comes with. In fact, the prevalence of eating disorders in India is so limited, that research is near non-existent. If you are interested in the comparison of diagnosis between India and Australia, I’ve included a link to The National Library of Medicine’s report in the show notes (Lal, Abraham, Parikh, & Chhibber, 2015).
Well, that’s all we have time for today, I hope you’ve enjoyed the first of possibly many episodes. I know we’ve covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. So, if you do have any questions, feel free to pop me an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any feedback you have and potential ideas for the next podcast. Maybe you want to be involved? Either way, flick me a message and I’ll be sure to get started.
I’m Grace Lilian, and you’ve listened to My Take.
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Uknown. (2019, April 28). Explaining Socialisation . Retrieved from LibreTexts: https://socialsci.libretexts.org/Courses/Sacramento_City_College/SCC%3A_SOC_300_-_Introduction_to_Sociology_(Block)/Text/3%3A_Socialization_and_Social_Interactions/3.3%3A_Explaining_Socialization
Unknown. (2018, May 16). Newsbeat. Retrieved from BBC News: https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-44137700