1776 was a watershed year for writers on both sides of the Atlantic; on the American side Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and on this side Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth of Nations”, paving the way for the Industrial Revolution.
Over the next 150 years the Industrial Revolution was responsible for massive economic growth in Britain, but for individual workers, including children, life was incredibly tough. Forced to work all day, they had no time to eat until the evening and as the work was manual, they needed that evening meal to replenish their lost calories.
And so the evening meal was the calorific cornerstone of the day, and even when people started having lunch hours and working in offices, there remained the tendency to sit down for a large meal at the end of the day. Work and life had changed, but eating habits remained.
But then the digital revolution came along and, together with increased knowledge about nutrition, eating habits changed. Nowadays people spend an average of 11 minutes a day eating their evening meal (McDermott 2012), but they spend an hour a day on social media (Hurst, 2013).
Whilst it may seem shocking that we spend five times as long filling our Facebook as we do filling our faces, this isn’t inherently a bad thing. Some people are now grazing which spreads their consumption throughout the day, reducing the highs and lows associated with eating large meals. And there are many healthy options available when grazing, such as fruit, nuts and seeds. And then there’s the old adage of “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper”, so getting your calories throughout the day can be a good thing, freeing up your evening for more social activities (real and virtual).
It’s a trend we’ve been following closely, so much so that we’ve produced a white paper on it which you can access here, or if you’d just like to graze on a bite-sized chunk, you can see an infographic here.
Hurst, P. (2013) ‘Britons spend 62m hours a day on social media - that's an average one hour for EVERY adult and child’ Independent, 10 April 2013 [online] http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/britons-spend-62m-hours-a-day-on-social-media--thats-an-average-one-hour-for-every-adult-and-child-8567437.html (accessed 15 August 2013)
McDermott, K. (2012) ‘Now that’s fast food’, The Daily Mail, 25 October 2012 [online] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2223057/Busy-Britons-wolf-evening-meal-just-11-minutes--spend-15-minutes-washing-up.html (accessed 15 November 2012).