A recent study at the University of Antwerp of more than 37,000 respondents in 38 countries worldwide showed that 1 in 4 people regularly seek each other out online to share a drink or meal that they can’t have in person due to coronavirus restrictions.
They also learned that the more often people do this, the unhappier they are.
Now researchers at the University are looking to get to the bottom of why this is the case, and are calling on people to share their experiences of eating and drinking together online.
“Research from before the coronavirus pandemic already showed that those who often eat together feel better about themselves and also eat healthier,” said Katrien Maldoy, researcher in communication sciences at UAntwerp.
“People who often have a drink together are happier than those who don’t. We were curious to know whether this also applies to people who eat and drink together online. After all, the coronavirus crisis caused many people to meet up online to share a meal or to have a drink.”
Unfortunately, they found that the online experience doesn’t yield the same benefits as dining together in person.
“People who enjoy eating and drinking together online are indeed happier and eat healthier. People who find it awkward are generally less happy and eat less healthily,” Maldoy said.
“But the more people actually engage in eating and drinking together online, even if they like it, the less happy they are. And also nutritionally, they seem to experience fewer benefits the more they seek each other out online.”
Researchers say the reasons for this aren’t clear, which is why they’re looking for people to share their experiences regarding virtual dining with people outside their coronavirus bubbles.
“What is it exactly that makes eating and drinking together online not equal to eating and drinking together in real life?” asked Maldoy. “We want to identify those reasons.”
People who want to share their experiences can fill out the researchers’ online questionnaire.