The popularity of video streaming on the internet is changing how we consume media and information. Gone are the days when you need to tune in at a specific time to catch your favorite drama or reality shows. Now, you can watch programs at your leisure, while riding a bus to Salt Lake City or reorganizing your kitchen cabinets. Creating and uploading content is also not limited to high-budget production studios anymore because of streaming sites like YouTube and Twitch promoting and rewarding user-generated content. This phenomenon has paved the way for all kinds of content made available to the public, especially popular eating videos or Mukbang.
What is Mukbang?
Towering stacks of burgers, large bowls of ramen, and a nice spread of different flavored fried chicken. All are consumed by a person sitting in front of a screen being broadcasted live while chatting with an online community. This is mukbang, a mash-up of South Korean words for ‘eating’ (meokneun) and ‘broadcast’ (bangsong). While originating in South Korea, mukbang videos have been propelled to the world stage with famous Youtube personalities like Kim Thai and Nikocado Avocado jumping on the bandwagon and earning a six-figure salary. Here are some reasons why mukbang videos appeal to a large audience.
It is a relaxing, sensory experience.
Eating sounds like slurping, chewing, and smacking lips trigger a neurological reaction called Autonomous Sensory Meridan Response (ASMR) in some people. It is a calming tingling sensation that affects the brain and spine, causing feelings of happiness and relief.
Most information on why ASMR elicits this kind of response has been anecdotal, but researchers like clinical neurologist Steven Novella work towards finding a scientific basis for the experience. He believes people who are affected by ASMR have a pattern of neural hardwiring wherein listening to sounds of whispering, cracking, or chewing activates the pleasure response of their brain.
It introduces a wide variety of food.
Given the global flavor of mukbang videos, viewers are exposed to different kinds of food not readily available to them due to location or budget. Traditional Korean food like jajangmyeon (black bean sauce noodles) and tteokbokki (spicy stir-fried rice cakes) are regularly featured, which can lead viewers to try out new cuisines. Restaurants and fast-food chains have also partnered with professional mukbangers to serve as advertising for their new products.
It promotes community and connection.
Dining alone is becoming a socially accepted occurrence with research showing the average adult American eating 7.4 meals alone each week. Watching mukbang videos can stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation, making viewers feel they are dining with a friend. There is also a sense of co-presence via interactions with other users through the comment section. They are united and bonded by experiencing the same activity.
It helps with curbing cravings.
Through the experience of eating vicariously, individuals are given the illusion of eating the food together with the streamer. American mukbanger Trisha Paytas has said her videos have even helped others fast through Ramadan. Cravings are curbed because of the satisfaction viewers feel via obtaining visual and audio stimulation.
Our relationship with food transcends merely a biological necessity, taking on different kinds of meaning through emotional association. This is further emphasized by technology continuously being developed in the modern world. The sky’s the limit as to what will be the next trend put up on the internet.