by Athena Cai
There have been multitudes of trends on YouTube during its time on the internet. In the past year, mukbang (translating to “eating broadcast”), has risen to become another weird, yet widely popular internet sensation. Mukbang is a broadcast of the creator eating copious amounts of food in one sitting in front of a camera. This is often accompanied by over-exaggerated munching, crunching, and slurping noises. Originating from the South Korean streaming platform Afreeca TV in 2010, mukbang reached the peak of its popularity in early 2019. Since then, watching these broadcasts have become a guilty pleasure for millions of viewers online.
Why has mukbang become so popular? The traction seems to stem from social constructs prevalent in countries all around the world, especially in South Korea. The media presence of health and body standards results in immense satisfaction in watching others gorge calories by the thousands. Others use mukbang as an escape from reality or as a way to fulfill the need to eat with company. Additionally, as the percentage of the population living alone continues to increase, people will turn to mukbang streams, interactions with the creator, and the mukbang community, in order to combat loneliness.
Another integral part of mukbang is the ASMR, which stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response”. Some viewers obtain pleasure from listening to eating and cooking sounds, resulting in feelings of “relaxation” and “brain tingles”. The aforementioned effects were confirmed with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans showing significant activation of regions of the brain corresponding to reward activation; the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), self-awareness, social cognition, and social behaviors; the prefrontal cortex (mPFC), as well as regions corresponding to emotional arousal; the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). Musical frisson (chills felt during peak moments of emotion in the music) and social bonding display similar effects.
Mukbang has been one of the weirder trends to have gone viral in the past year. However odd it might be, millions of viewers around the world use mukbang as a blissful escape. If anything, this trend should be taken as a reminder to explore the wonderful world that is the internet in its entirety. See what you can find.