As explored in my previous posts that detailed and mapped my media niche of vegan food and wellness YouTubers, this week it’s time to put it all into perspective in regards to its validity as a project.
The vegan food online community comes with quite a lot of spectacle, and often backlash. These creators and influencers can frame their videos and posts from the angle of food inspiration and general documentation of life – or advice. Advice on the internet is everywhere, not all of it is valid and can come from anyone, anywhere.
Now: advice is not always bad when it’s in the form of a recommendation or is from academic knowledge. However, sharing health advice on the internet is a rocky path without coming from a qualified background.
The problem I would like to delve deeper into is the line between personal expression and advice in vegan food videos. For example, an influencer sharing their daily breakfast (personal expression) versus the same influencer telling their audience they need to eat this breakfast for X health benefits (advice).
What are these food influencers sharing on the internet? Is it just inspiration or nutritional advice? What qualifications do they have? When I watch these videos and replicate a meal – is it from curiosity or from guidance from a non-health professional?
The best living example of misleading, and quite frankly, dangerous information being preached is by Freelee The Banana Girl back in the raw vegan limelight on YouTube. This (vegan) YouTuber promoted having 10-20 bananas in a form of a smoothie, mass potato consumption, and fat and protein (necessary food types to live) as evil and unhealthy.
Many people have shared their experiences since this wild time on the internet, and eating this way made them very sick and stopped being vegan as this way was wildly unsustainable.
Framing my research this way could be helpful for both influencers and consumers.
- What limits should be placed on wellness advice in your content and how will it be perceived by the viewer?
- And then from the other end, how much health advice should you take seriously from content creators you like?
Observation is a key research practice that needs to be utilised in this study. Participant observation in particular is a procedure for generating understanding about the way of life of others (Dawson 2020). By watching and participating in the videos and content these creators put out, I am able to get primary data based on my experiences. Observing the interactions inside the field site and how they make me feel is extremely important – would I take their advice?
This flows directly into auto ethnography, which is the research idea that while conducting my study I am a member of the culture and am committed to understanding and analysing this group (Anderson 2006). Since I am exploring my media niche, I am already involved and fascinated by this phenomena, I can use this knowledge when presenting my views.
I am going to record my notes by typing them out and collecting them in their own folders. By watching YouTube videos and examining the experience they give, tracking where they lead and the person behind them – I believe there will be a goldmine of data in this.
The paradigmatic approach is where I am coming unstuck: positivism is guided by objectivity and using logic (perfect for looking into the necessity for educational advice) vs social constructionism which looks at positivism “truth” based on the reality (will help understanding grey areas between personal expression vs advice) (DeCarlo 2018).
DeCarlo, Mattew (2018) ‘6.2 Paradigms, theories, and how they shape a researcher’s approach’, Scientific Inquiry in Social Work, https://scientificinquiryinsocialwork.pressbooks.com/chapter/6-2-paradigms-theories-and-how-they-shape-a-researchers-approach/
Dawson Catherine (2002) How to Carry Out Participant Observation, in Practical Research Methods A User-Friendly Guide to Mastering Research Techniques and Projects, HowTo Books: Oxford.
Anderson, Leon 2006, Analytic Autoethnography, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.
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