Among the 300 hours of video that is uploaded to You Tube every minute you can bet there is some truly weird content. Think unboxing.
But just when you thought it doesn’t get much odder than watching someone unwrap presents or gifts, along comes a trend from South Korea that makes YouTube’s daily diet of vlogs, beauty tutorials and how-tos look like action movies.
Meet Mukbang, a Korean term for a livestream of someone eating a meal while interacting with viewers. Yes, millions of us watch them eating dinner.
The eater/host is called a broadcast jockey or BJ, inspired by the terms DJ and VJ. Some are so popular they have been able to trade on feeding themselves to develop brand partnerships and TV appearances. It seems slim girls with XOS appetites are particularly popular, such as BJ The Diva.
Is Mukbang the new binge viewing?
The concept of Mukbang has been around since 2009, but has only recently reached a wider international audience, as it has become associated with the ASMR phenomenon. ASMR is code for autonomous sensory meridian response where noises and other stimuli actually have been found to relax people.
It seems loud eating noises really work for some people, helping Mukbang soar in popularity. Among the loudest eaters being viewed is California-based Suell, whose eating videos often get over 10 or 20 million views.
Why are Mukbang videos so popular?
Perhaps they appeal to people who would like to binge eat themselves, but know they shouldn’t for health reasons. They watch and gorge vicariously.
Some believe it creates intimacy – watching someone hog out close up is reasonably intimate - without physical interaction, appealing to those who struggle with social anxiety.
Social scientists think it’s related to the issue of loneliness in the hyper-connected digital age. Research says Gen Z and Millennials are the loneliest generations yet, reporting more mental health issues than any other group, and some surveys have shown that students are lonelier than old aged pensioners.
The internet has brought us many strange things. Mukbang is right up there in strange stakes.