We can argue about free will all we want, but in truth, human beings are much more malleable and persuadable than we'd like to admit. Few sites of culture transmit this phenomenon more than social media, creating mass and massive change virtually everywhere it goes. That means you need to take it into account when you hit the grocery store — as new research shows.
A study just published by the U.K.'s Aston University reports that we eat either more junk food or more healthy meals in response to what we see on social media and how we believe our friends are eating. Study participants who saw their friends eating "high-energy snacks and sugary drinks" on networks like Facebook believed they had a "license to overeat," and on average ate about one-third more than usual. On the other hand, those who believed their friends were eating the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables actually took extra portions of healthy foods.
If we keep ourselves glued to our screens at current rates, we'll spend an average of five and a half years on social media over the course of our lives. Given the option of leaving our favorite social media sites, a portion of respondents said they'd take at least $1,000, but many refused to even entertain the notion. Once we know about the ways social media can change our behavior, for good and for ill, it can be easier to recognize when it's happening. You don't need to ditch Instagram; just make sure you're shopping how you really want to when you're planning for this week's meals.