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The Science Of The Mukbang: Why Do We Love Watching Other People Eat?

by Jenika Enoch 4 months ago in pop culture

If you love the sounds and sights of watching other people eat, you're not alone! But why do some of us love it so much?

Heungsam's Family mukbang [YouTube]

It's hard for some to imagine why sitting in front of a screen or device and watching people eat a large amount of food is satisfying. It's also hard to imagine how (or why) people livestreaming themselves eating has turned into a way to legitimately make a living. However, it is happening! The mukbang has blown up into a massive internet sensation and no matter what social media platform you're on, you can find people eating on camera. Even more, you can find even more people who are loving every second of it.

Mukbang's have become popular for the sheer fact that they are addictive and satisfying to watch. But why is that, and where did they even come from?

What is a mukbang?

Stephanie Soo mukbang [YouTube]

The mukbang (translated to "eating broadcast" in Korean) first started gaining popularity in South Korea in the early 2010's. The concept was Korean's showcasing their cultural foods in mass quantity and variety and eating these foods on camera. The videos are often made controversial or interesting by unconventional ingredients, quantities, or side dishes. Not only does this gain viewership for the streamer, but it leaves us wanting more as the audience. What will they eat next? Not only that, but is that really what some people eat?

The concept of a mukbang (pronounced "mook-bong") hasn't remained in South Korea, either. The idea has expanded to other parts of the world, including the United States. Just as other cultures got a glimpse into Korean food culture with mukbang videos, other cultures have started to vicariously experience American food culture by watching Americans eat mass quantities of barbecue and fast food. This includes exploring the concept on large social media publications such as Tasty and Buzzfeed.

In addition to streamers eating the food, they often engage with the audience they're eating for. The connection that viewers feel for the streamers can lead to requests being met, shout outs, and much more. Makes you feel pretty special, yeah?

Why do we love to watch mukbang's?

Eat Spicy with Tee mukbang [YouTube]

In the past few years, the concept of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos have surged online. Videos of people playing with slime or eating certain foods with microphones has become one of those oddly satisfying things. Mukbang's are really no different as we can not just watch someone eat, but we can hear everything that goes with it. Slurping, crunching, chewing, swallowing, and smacking are all normal eating sounds, but when you're watching a mukbang you get to focus on it without annoying someone else in the room. The very concept of ASMR causes reactions in the brain that can act as a calming response to stress, or simply provide satisfying audio or visual stimuli. ASMR videos are also theorized to increase blood flow due to the stimuli the viewer is receiving.

Another possible reason could be the fact that a lot of people practice the concept of "eat with your eyes." We all know that eating 5lb of lobster with butter sauce isn't good for you to do every day. But, it's a lot easier and healthier to just watch someone do it online. It gives a sense of satisfaction to watch someone eat something that you would love to eat yourself, or simply watch them enjoy something that looks delicious.

How do I know if I would like watching mukbang videos?

Zach Choi mukbang [YouTube]

There really isn't any rhyme or reason to mukbang videos. Just like anything else, it's all about trial and error and you won't know what you like unless you try watching them. Personally, if ASMR slime videos annoy you, mukbang's probably aren't for you. But even then, you never know!

Several streamers have achieved great success with mukbang videos including Heungsam's Family, Stephanie Soo, Zach Choi, LA Beast, Minee Eats, Eat Spicy with Tee, Eat with Boki, and Hyunee Eats.

For me, I'd say that mukbang's are a great way to explore if you have any sort of curiosity about other food cultures. I started watching mukbang's and it led me to a path of discovery that I really enjoy Korean food. When you watch enough and see the same things, you want to try them. I learned to make recipes myself, asked some questions, and now I enjoy things that aren't the typical American burger and fries.

Eat with Boki mukbang [YouTube]

We don't always get to travel and try different foods at the source. Not only that, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn't necessarily been safe to just to go a restaurant and try something new. Mukbang's can open a whole new world to someone and give you the feeling of being more exposed to other culture. I think the concept opens a lot of doors and you never know what you might find unless you explore it.

pop culture

About the author

Jenika Enoch

I love movies, music, sci-fi, and art. I'm a certified graphic designer and create my own art. Things that fuel me include equality, respect, and anything weird.

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