Mukbang: Watching Other People Eat

People want to see the junk. They want to watch people eat things that they can’t eat… I get that. A few years ago, when I was on a really restrictive diet, I would just type ‘someone eating macaroni and cheese’ into Google and watch… There’s an entertainment factor. If I were to post salad mukbangs, I would not get the views that I do today –  Nikocado Avocado, Mukbang BJ

In an age of Instagram where the visual aspect of food is becoming increasingly important, the “Muk Bang” phenomenon is the logical next step.

Mukbang (a portmanteau of the Korean words for “eating” (먹는; meokneun) and “broadcast” (방송; bangsong)) is a live online audiovisual broadcast in which a host eats large amounts of foods while interacting with their audience. This is usually done through streaming platforms including Afreeca, YouTube and Twitch.

Mukbang rose in significance in South Korea in 2010 starting on streaming platform Afreeca. It has been thought that the rise of technology and also the increased number of Koreans living alone have contributed to it’s popularity. The creators (“broadcast jockeys” or “BJ“) livestream themselves eating and talking with viewers. Audiences interact with questions or comments which is a large part of the appeal of Mukbang. There’s a sense of community in coming together at a dinner table, even if it’s only virtually.

In Korea, it’s not common for people to go out to eat by themselves.. Dining is a social activity, and you don’t sit and eat alone. For those that can’t eat with others, they’ll more than likely stay home to eat alone, but they’ll still have the urge to socialize while eating, which is what I think mukbangers replicate –  Simon Stawski, of Eat Your Kimchi

South Korea has had the world’s fastest internet for several years running. with 99 percent of households having internet access. With advanced technology and the internet being readily accessible, it is no surprise that South Korea’s finds itself offsetting single life by streaming a virtual meal.
However it has been argued that it is not only the sense of loneliness but also a need to satisfy the desire of food vicariously. Most mukbang feasts are incredibly high-calorie — sometimes mukbang video creators consume more than 10,000 calories in a single video.

People want to see the junk. They want to watch people eat things that they can’t eat… I get that. A few years ago, when I was on a really restrictive diet, I would just type ‘someone eating macaroni and cheese’ into Google and watch… There’s an entertainment factor. If I were to post salad mukbangs, I would not get the views that I do today -Nikocado Avocado, Mukbang BJ

Viewers who watch my mukbang are on a diet,… So you call this a sort of gratification through others – Rachel Ahn,  “Aebong-ee

An interesting phenomenon to come out of this is not only the visual aspect of watching someone eat. To some, chewing noises, preparing foods, and the sounds from opening up food packages are calming. These sounds are known as autonomous sensory meridian response: they cause static-like, tingling sensations along the skin, and in turn trigger a sense of euphoria and relaxation.

The demands on Ahn and other mukbang stars like her are high — she can’t just eat, she must eat ferociously. As she devours noodles, loud slurping is a must – NPR

Some Mukbang channels are completely devoted to ASMR and the production of different eating sounds. ASMR videos can be therapeutic for viewers searching for the relaxing tingling sensation.  Many people who watch ASMR videos say it helps reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Be prepared for people to critique how you eat – Erik Lamkin, aka Erik the Electric

Have a favourite Mukbang video? Let us know in the comments below!
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