What is Mukbang, and what is this new trend?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have come across many videos on the internet where people are eating enormous amounts of food in one go. This popular trend is known as Mukbang and actually originated in South Korea. Until its discovery in the international space, it was limited to that region and people used to stream themselves while eating large amounts (or rather ginormous) of food in one sitting. This created a sense of community amongst people who felt alone and wanted some form of companionship through media.
Now, it has turned into another social media fad and has completely taken over popular video streaming channels like YouTube and Twitch. What is even more surprising is that many youtubers actually get paid millions just for posting such videos on the platform and they can rack up billions of views over time! They’re earning a constant stream of revenue because of the demand created in the market. But with that, there have been many accusations of such trends triggering eating disorders and encouraging the act of binge eating on impressionable minds.
Why is Mukbang so popular?
With any internet trend, it’s always important to remember that sometimes certain content just sells for no reason. This is exactly what people thought about Mukbang in the beginning until people started probing further into why there is such a high demand for such videos. It’s simply because it clubs already popular trends such as ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) and food vlogging. Everybody loves food but what people love more is seeing other people eat varying cuisines from all over the world. This trend combines the need for that while creating an impressionable experience for the viewer.
When people eat such large amounts of food that we consider humanly impossible, it creates a shock value for the viewer. As and when they’re watching it, eventually they root for the person partaking in such a mind-blowing effort. Also, the fact that food is associated with a sense of community, it’s not surprising that people all over the internet are flocking to watch these videos considering that human life has a paradoxical connection these days. Combining these aspects gives us a wonderful insight into why it’s increasing in popularity and continues to do so.
But, is it really something we should encourage?
Mukbang and eating disorders
Mukbang is picking up all over the world and as we all know, the digital environment is made for people between the age group of 18 to 35 years old. This sets a dangerous precedent for these viewers as current research shows they might be prone to developing eating disorders. Here, there are two sides to the same coin. On one hand, we have viewers who feel that if they watch these videos; they don’t need to eat and they can satisfy their appetite through such videos. While it might sound like a great way to curb your cravings, eventually there could be a situation where they might feel the need to depend on it to a point where they completely limit and ruin their appetite.
We have people who become excited by watching these videos and think to themselves that if the mukbang creator can do it, so can they. This is when they start binge eating to a point where their body cannot tolerate it and eventually suffer the consequences of their actions. These were the two perspectives that had come through from a study that was conducted in 2020 by researchers in Sweden and the results of their study indicate a paradox of perception. While some think that mukbang is a great way to keep fit, at the same time people think it’s a harmful trend.
An ominous trend or harmless hearsay?
It’s quite obvious that what we see on these videos are not true but since the audience is such an impressionable age group, it’s quite hard to make them understand. When you regularly see a mukbanger who is thin and fit eating such large amounts of food and still maintaining that health, our perception of fitness can get twisted. Considering that people watch some videos in their free time, they become even more malleable to such thoughts while passively watching such videos. The limited research that has been done in this field supports this fact and it also increases the possibility of internet addiction over time too.
Another roundabout to this issue is that the creators themselves face a lot of issues keeping up their physical image on camera. Either they feel conscious and tend to limit their food or completely avoid it so that they ‘compensate’ for what they eat on camera or they begin binge eating over time. It can lead to a variety of eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and even obesity, which in turn causes serious problems in the body!
So, could Mukbang cause the next eating disorder epidemic?
Possibly, yes. On the whole, recent data and the feedback from viewers and creators alike does not show a very promising road for the future. It seems like Mukbang could be at the precipice of creating more problems that it intends on and that is becoming increasingly evident with the many studies pointing to the very fact. Since we don’t get to see the behind the scenes of our favourite youtuber’s struggles with eating disorders, we might find that disconnect when we are trying to comprehend it ourselves.
There is very little information out there about the negative aspects of the phenomenon. We must make sure that we must not take every little thing that we see online as a reflection of reality or else we stand to pull ourselves into a deadly hole of What had once started out as a trend to bring people closer together and form a sense of community online could now very well bring in the next eating disorder epidemic and impact the next generation just as easily.
Keywords: Mukbang, eating disorders, binge eating
- Chadha, P. (2020, February 14). The new fad: Mukbang. Retrieved from https://www.psychologs.com/article/the-new-fad-mukbang
- Lee, K. (2021, February 12). Mukbang: Exploring Media and the Mind. Retrieved from https://dailycampus.com/2021/02/12/mukbang-exploring-media-and-the-mind/
- Matthews, M. (2019, January 18). These Viral ‘Mukbang’ Stars Get Paid to Gorge on Food—at the Expense of Their Bodies. Retrieved from https://www.menshealth.com/health/a25892411/youtube-mukbang-stars-binge-eat/
- Quinn, S. (2020, September 11). Are noisy YouTube binge eating videos triggering more than just joy?. Retrieved from https://metro.co.uk/2020/09/11/youtube-asmr-binge-eating-mukbang-videos-triggering-13120714/
- Strand, M., & Gustafsson, S. A. (2020). Mukbang and Disordered Eating: A Netnographic Analysis of Online Eating Broadcasts. Culture, medicine and psychiatry, 44(4), 586–609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11013-020-09674-6
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