From pictures on Instagram to foodie blog posts, food has never been so popular in social media. And another trend is growing - Social eating.
Social eating: What’s that?
Social eating is watching other people eating online. The ‘’eaters’’ film themselves eating their meals (and the amount of food is often insane!).
You can watch it on a live broadcast channel (where you have to pay to watch it!) or on other platforms such as YT and Instagram.
This phenomenon started in South Korea and it's called: ''Mukbang'' which in Korean means ‘eating broadcast’’.
In South Korea, social eating is so popular, those certain famous broadcasters can make thousands of dollars from broadcasting themselves eating food! And this phenomenon has also started to spread in the US and Europe.
The Diva: a very famous Korean social eating broadcaster
But why would you spend your time (and even sometimes your money) watching a complete stranger eating food?
Well, one of the reasons is that watching 'mukbang' is quite communal. Many of us, at the end of the day, get home and often have dinner on our own. It can sometimes make people feel a bit lonely.
But if you are eating while watching a live broadcaster who is also eating at the same time, you can feel less lonely. The live streaming video platform Twitch (originally exclusively dedicated to online gaming, but, also opened a social eating channel) says it’s almost like eating with friends.
And in many live eating videos, you can interact in the chat with the broadcaster. Thus, every evening thousands of viewers watch the same broadcaster who becomes a familiar a face and they can interact with them. It's actually not a bad eating experience, is it?
This can explain why this phenomenon is particularly popular in South Korea as there, there is a huge rise of one-person household and feelings of loneliness can be quite strong. But this situation is also increasing in Europe and in the US.
Many people love watching mukbang podcasts also for another reason: they are eating vicariously. The most popular mukbang eaters usually film themselves eating huge amounts of high-calorie food. It appears that many social eating viewers are often on a diet. Watching someone else swallowing up a feast, satisfy indirectly their needs for food they ban themselves from eating. And often in mukbang videos, the broadcaster makes a lot of noise when eating (swallowing, mashing etc).
All this gives the viewer the impression they are also eating this insane quantity of delicious food without gaining a kilo. Some of them say they even almost feel full after watching these videos.
Nikocado Avocado: a famous American social eating broadcaster
Is muk-bank weird?
Well, before I did more in-depth research over this topic, I personally thought that social eating was a quite weird trend. I did not get the point of watching a stranger eating an insane amount of food and making all of those noise! For me it was almost voyeurism, because to me, eating is quite an intimate moment.
But actually, after reviewing the main reasons why so many people love mukbang videos, I can understand better why they’re doing this, especially regarding the loneliness. I personally dine often on my own too which can be quite boring sometimes! Hence Muk-bang can be a way to bypass this lonely feeling.
However, we should not neglect the fact that social eating videos still belong to the virtual world. We should still push ourselves to look for other ways to effectively address this loneliness issue so that we finally share a dinner with other people in real.
And you, do you enjoy watching online strangers eating?
Written by Sarah Bouchra