Using visual social media data to better understand food cultures: the case of wellness bloggers.



As my PhD research develops, I would like to share a short summary, especially as ‘wellness’ blogging and ‘wellness’ lifestyle practices on social media seem to significantly increase , creating many opportunities for discussion and analysis on their influence in younger generations or on the possible impact they have in everyday life. 

Therefore, my thesis draws upon the increasingly popular practices of a set of highly active online actors self-defined as ‘wellness’ bloggers. These actors, many of whom have popular blogs and social media profiles, generate a wealth of pictures of their shopping, cooking preparations and outcomes and post them online to communicate with their audiences. The aim of this research is to chart the ways in which (visual) social media have shaped recent social phenomena of healthy eating, wellness discourses and lifestyle practices in the UK.

To achieve its aim, the thesis will focus on the analysis of the visual social media content generated by a particular actor, the influential food blogger Deliciously Ella. Through a set of questions that will investigate, among others, a) the key features of wellness blogging micro-celebrities, b) the disruption of traditional media systems and hierarchies, c) the adoption of the wellness bloggers practices by ordinary social media users, d) the understanding of the wider social phenomenon of healthy eating and wellness lifestyle practices mediated through social media platforms, this research will attempt to shed light to an under-explored and new social phenomenon. A combination of qualitative and computational methods will be used in order to analyse a large dataset of Instagram images and at the same time, ethnographic and auto-ethnographic methods will further enhance this research, aiming at providing different epistemic points of entry into the phenomenon under study.

This project is funded by the White Rose ESRC Network on ‘Big Data and Food Safety’, led by Dr. Farida Vis, also director of the Visual Social Media Lab. This network is a research collaboration with the Food Standards Agency and Pulsar, a company specialising in Social Media Analytics and Intelligence.

Image source: Perou for the Guardian:

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