The Allure of Mukbang

The Allure of Mukbang

If you open YouTube and notice that a number of people have uploaded videos of themselves eating suspiciously delicious grub on camera, you might be hungry, but you're not going crazy. What they're participating in is a relatively new niche of online content known as mukbang. Ring a bell?

The Korean term, which loosely translates to livestream eating, refers to an interesting form of entertainment in which a person sits down and devours a ton of food on camera. Most of the time this ceremony is streamed live, but these days plenty more mukbang videos are uploaded as regular content to YouTube.

Whether you like watching mukbangs or not it's hard to argue with the fundamental message they convey: food makes us happy--very, very happy. If you could only see the elation in my face when I take the first bite of mom's home-cooked green chicken enchiladas; it's a full sensory experience that few words can describe. But with this medium, we suddenly have the capability of being face-to-face with a visual image of what that looks like. That's the allure of the mukbang video.

At its core, mukbangs strike at the heart of the relationships we have with food and the people with whom we share those relationships. It's a particularly fascinating format that doesn't seem to require much effort to perform, at least not to those of us watching. The most work seems to be people trying to fit all the food they have in front of them into frame (and into their bellies). But what these creators accomplish through mukbangs is far more interesting, and in many ways echoes the basic role the internet was originally designed to do.

Since its infancy, the internet set out to revolutionize what human interconnectedness could look like. From the dawning of the email to the intimacy of video calls--the way we use the internet has evolved immensely. It's no longer a mere convenience to have at our fingertips, but an intrinsic part of our day to day lives.

I remember, 15 years ago, running home from school to hop on AIM with my friends only to continue those gossipy conversations teens have in high school (yes, I'm old enough to remember instant messenger!). Although the days of AIM are long gone (RIP), the sensory impact of the internet continues to push that interconnection to its limits--and mukbang is perhaps one of the most unique side-effects of that.

People that desire an immediate human connection with other humans have found refuge online. Mukbang takes that a step further by bringing us together through our unconditional love for food. We have some of our best conversations when we're sharing it; our interactions are richer with a pair of chopsticks in our hands, am I right?

If you're a regular mukbang consumer, who are some of your favorite people to watch? Have you become as absurdly glutenous as I have after watching so many delicious-looking lobster tails lined up perfectly in front of you?

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