Why Do We Like to Watch Other People Eat?!

by Larissa Tsui

You’ve probably seen so-called mukbang videos of people eating tremendously large amounts of food floating around on your IG feed and YouTube, right? The word mukbang (먹방) is a mixture of two words - 먹자 (muk-ja, let’s eat) and 방송 (bang-song, broadcast), making mukbang literally meaning “eating broadcast”. Mukbang blew up and became huge globally but why do people find pleasure in watching other people eat? It seems like a weird concept but there’s actually a few psychological reasons why 🧐


So, how did mukbang start? We know mukbangs now from platforms like Instagram and Youtube, but before it blew up and spread all over the world, it actually started in Korea back in 2010. Broadcast Jockeys (BJ) would live-stream themselves downing huge amounts of food while interacting with their audience through the live-streaming platform, AfreecaTV Broadcast 🍔🍜🍕 There are various types and focuses of mukbang. It can range from finishing a crazy large amount of food, eating fast, ASMR mukbangs, storytime mukbangs to collaboration mukbangs 🍽


Now, why would people sit there and watch other people eat for up to hours? In Korean culture, eating is not just for the purpose of nourishment but also for the purpose of socialising. Family and friends all sitting together to share a meal and having a sense of connection is another fundamental aspect of Korean culture. It was rare for Koreans to eat alone but with the rapidly growing numbers of Koreans living alone and eating alone, the sense of loneliness can hit. So they turn to social media in this digital age for a solution 📲 Watching someone else eating and being able to talk to them through real-time chatting allows the viewer to feel less isolated as it’s like they’re eating with someone else. Korean BJ’s usually live-stream at regular meal times so viewers can watch or eat along with them. It’s why mukbang’s popularity sky-rocketed over the years as watching mukbangs while eating alone can re-create the social aspect of dining with people. 


Though many mukbangs are recorded and uploaded with the aspect of interacting with the broadcaster, there is still an explanation behind why people find it so appealing. That is the enjoyment of watching someone else’s enjoyment - a vicarious pleasure 🤝 Mukbangs often involve the broadcaster eating in large amounts, eating fast, or enjoying the food in a way that makes the food look really good. While watching the eating live streams, viewers can even comment on what and how the eater should eat, like “pair this with that!” or “slurp more!” and the BJ would comply, making it a much more satisfying watch.

Whether you’re a foodie, just watching out of boredom, or because of social and vicarious purposes, mukbangs can fulfil a lot more than you think. Mukbang practically started and blew up not because of all the delicious food and eating manner but ‘mukbangers’ are able to make mealtimes much more enjoyable than just eating alone.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.