Why are People Watching Youtubers Eat Large Portions of Food?

Mukbangs are when people either live stream or record and upload themselves eating a very large portion of food while talking to their audience. As someone who casually watches ASMR, I have been exposed to many mukbang videos through my recommended feed (pun intended). I have tried to watch them before writing this article only to throw down my phone and cringe in my seat from the noisy slurping and chewing of people eating food with their mouths agape and moving, trying to talk to their audience while snacking on what can only be thousands of calories of food. However, I decided to try to understand why they were so popular. They are so popular that many videos break into the millions in views with one video currently sitting at an astounding 24 million views on Youtube.

Mukbangs have been popular for quite a while now with the earliest mukbangs being videos from 2010 on AfreecaTV, a video streaming service located in South Korea, and even YouTube. Since it started on AfreecaTV, a South Korean streaming site, it can be assumed it started as a South Korean trend. In fact, the word “mukbang” is a portmanteau of the Korean words for “eating” and “broadcast”. The trend has been speculated about by many including Serim An, an employee at AfreecaTV who thinks that people may be watching them because of “the rise of one-person households in Korea, their ensuing loneliness” because many viewers of these videos claim that they feel like they are eating a meal with someone in a way.

Another reason they became popular is that viewers are able to (or claim to be able to) live somewhat vicariously through the eating videos. This is “beneficial” to South Korean viewers who may live under the excessive dieting caused by dissatisfaction with body shape, size etc; that is prominent in South Korean society. In fact, obtaining/maintaining a skinny body may be a bigger cause of social anxiety and worry because in Korean society because only 5.3 percent of South Korea’s adult population (15+) are obese, and therefore obesity would be frowned upon more than countries such as America where obesity is more wide-spread. Some people are unable to properly diet and according to a 2014 study by the South Korean Ministry of Education, twelve out of 100 high schools girls showed anemia.[1]  [2]

After scouring the internet for answers as to why people like these massive eating videos, I came to find a few of the most common reasons people have for watching it:

  • People who are lonely desire the feeling of eating with someone
  • To stimulate their own sense of hunger
  • They enjoy the personality of the person
  • They like the sounds (ASMR)

 

Personality is a large part of what makes non-ASMR mukbang creators so popular. The most popular creators tend to have very open and boisterous personalities like Shane Dawson who screams at the camera every video, snorts like a pig every few seconds, and constantly makes sex jokes. Another popular creator, Stephanie Soo is very a popular mukbang-based Youtube creator and is loved most for her open, energetic personality and seems to often rely on (very likely) exaggerated life stories and sexual humor. She also fits perfectly into the stereotype of a “basic” white girl even down to her voice, and since basic in this context means the most common, she seems to click with lots of people[3]. The most popular mukbangs tend to be centered around ramen, octopus, other Asian foods, and American fast-food restaurants.  

There is also a popular form of mukbangs that are called ASMR mukbangs which basically takes ASMR—quiet and relaxing videos that give certain people tingles on their scalp—and meshes it with mukbangs. The ensuing videos are, dare I say, disturbing? As someone who is comfortable with most kinds of ASMR (many of which involving whispering) I cannot watch videos of people eating massive portions of food—or any portions of food for that matter—into a microphone with every single little slurp, crunch, and whatever uncomfortable sounds you can think of being picked up by the microphone. What I have found to be the most popular food ASMR Youtuber is a woman living in Canada named SAS-ASMR who makes ASMR eating/mukbang videos. She often eats very exotic or generally uncommon foods like giant lobster claws, whole octopi, vegetables, and other strange foods. Perhaps the most disturbing of her videos was one where she—get this—ate a live octopus. This was probably the most disturbing video I have seen in a while and I have watched grown men eat cake made out of hair. In the video, which has since been deleted, the octopus is still alive and trying desperately to suction itself to the table as this woman puts it into her mouth and crushes its head causing all of the octopus’s tentacles to go limp.

I was going to interview people about mukbangs at Apex High School, but I honestly could not bring myself to walk up and ask people if they enjoy watching people eat massive portions of food. Whatever you enjoy doing in your spare time is ultimately up to you; however, I cannot recommend consistently making mukbang videos because, as previously stated, they are just eating massive portions of food and while likely lead to major health issues, mental and physical[4]. Not only can mukbangs be unhealthy for the creator but also for the viewer because often times people watch these videos to stimulate their hunger and could be using it to help starve themselves to lose weight which has been proven time and time again to be a very unhealthy form of dieting especially for younger boys and girls who are still developing mentally and physically. Stay safe kids.

 

[1] This statistic may be influenced by pre-existing medical conditions but the way that the study was presented was as a way to address eating disorders and is unlikely to include said conditions. [Back to text]

[2]  According to a dissertation study from Kim Eun-a in South Korea, after interviewing 280 high school girls from four high schools in Seoul, it was discovered that Satisfaction with body shape was 14.0% and dissatisfaction was 86.0%. This means that out of 280 students, 238 were dissatisfied with the way they looked. Also in the dissertation, Kim found that 13% of girls thought they were the standard body weight, 40.6% thought they were fat and 46.4% thought they were obese but when actually weighed and scaled, it was founded that 14.2% had low body weight, 79.5% were normal, and 6.3% were overweight (not necessarily obese) on the body mass index. This goes to show the harsh beauty standards people are held too in a society, and while it is obviously better to be a healthy weight, it is terrible for mental health especially because it can lead to eating disorders like anorexia which can then lead to suicide because anorexics are 50 times more likely to die as a result of suicide than the general population. In fact, Anorexia is so deadly that—according to South Carolina Department of Mental Health—the eating disorder anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any mental illness including severe depression and schizophrenia. [Back to text]

[3]  I am not saying that if you enjoy her content you are a basic white girl or that being a basic white girl is necessarily a bad thing. [Back to text]

[4] Take for instance “popular” Youtuber Nikocado Avocado. The twenty-six year old has been supposedly diagnosed with diabetes in 2017 after becoming a mukbang Youtuber. Not only that but he has clearly put on large amounts of weight, and at one point siting that he had gained one hundred pounds over the past year. The toll on his mental health has been very real, he cries very often and commonly complains about this body weight as well as his overall mental state.  [Back to text]

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