Watching a video of someone eating a three-course meal sounds like the beginning to a bad joke, but it’s a trend that is becoming increasingly popular among college students.
Mukbang videos come from South Korea and sprouted up in 2010. The word “mukbang” is a combination of the Korean words for “eating” and “broadcast.” The original mukbangs were videos of young adults eating unusually large quantities of food, boasting the entertainment value of watching someone eat much more food than most people could ever manage to.
Since then, the internet trend has made its way across the pond to American college students — with a few twists.
Rachel Thweatt, a sophomore studying finance, recently created a mukbang video and posted it on YouTube from her dorm. She said her suitemate encouraged her to make the video.
“She’s really into those videos, and I was very hungry at midnight so I ordered food, and she thought it’d be funny if I filmed the video,” she said.
Thweatt said the work that went into making the video was more tedious than she had anticipated.
“People normally put a lot of time into how the food is laid out because their face also has to be in the camera as well. So that was kind of difficult," she said. "I didn’t realize how much work was put into this."
Thweatt said she watches mukbangs very casually herself, but that she also understands why people watch them consistently, as YouTubers often cook elaborate meals for views.
“I like the story time ones more than anything because sometimes people have some funny stories,” Thweatt said. “And I just like background noise.”
Samantha Herdrich, a freshman studying journalism, said she is an avid consumer of mukbang videos.
“It’s like my guilty pleasure,” she said.
Herdrich said she originally hated the videos until she stumbled upon one on Instagram and “became obsessed.”
She said she was originally embarrassed by the fact that she watches them, and would only listen with her headphones when her roommate was home.
“Now we’re best friends, so she knows about my addiction,” she said jokingly, “I’m trying to get her addicted, too.”
One of Herdrich’s favorite parts of these videos is the cultural differences she can see when watching a Korean mukbang video.
“The way they eat is completely different … I feel like they just take such bigger bites, and they eat with chopsticks and stuff," she said. "I feel like most people wouldn’t say that, but it’s just really interesting to me."
Not everyone has such nice things to say about the internet trend, however. Some people despise the sound of other people eating — not because they're grumpy or irritable, but because their brains are wired that way, according to a study published in Current Biology.
When people with a condition called misophonia hear such sounds as a person eating or breathing, it actually activates their fight or flight response. Needless to say, a whole video of someone eating food may not be welcomed by everyone.
Taryn Bennett, a sophomore studying political science, said she “kind of (hates mukbangs).”
“The sound of someone chewing and the sound of food sloshing in someone’s mouth is not appealing,” she said.
Bennett said that no matter what kind of mukbang it is, she wants no part of it, even the story time ones.
"If someone is chewing while they’re talking, that’s just gross,” she said.