If you’ve ever felt weird for wanting to invite the world to dinner, you don’t have to anymore. A new social trend, known as mukbang, is making its rounds on YouTube.
Mukbang, which means “eating broadcasts,” is an online movement where people video themselves eating food, usually in large amounts. They talk about their dietary habits while eating with their viewers.
Peri Bradley, editor of the book “Food, Media and Contemporary Culture: The Edible Image,” says sharing eating habits via video can possibly affect the viewers’ daily habits in return.
“The viewing of others enjoying ‘healthy’ vegetarian or vegan dishes certainly influences the way we perceive food, as it is usually accompanied by some sort of dialogue on the health benefits of its consumption, as well as being aesthetically presented in order to make it attractive and desirable,” Bradley said.
The trend began in 2014 in South Korea and is starting to grow. There are over 750 videos of the movement online, with half of them using the terms “healthy” or “vegan” in the titles.
One fit couple, Georgie and Darren Spindler, participate in mukbang videos as a way to add to their online fitness presence. The UK fitness and nutrition coaches already run a fitness website, Vegan Fitness.
“Mukbangs seem to help people connect with each other in busier times. We live in a time where it’s hard to find time to sit down and eat with other people,” Darren Spindler said.
Eating with other people via mukbang has helped the Spindlers connect on a different level with their viewers, by discussing in detail their diets and their food selection.
“It definitely helps with promoting veganism and healthy eating,” Darren Spindler said. “It shows a raw and unedited image of our lifestyles, which starts normalizing it. People often ask themselves, ‘What on earth would I eat on a vegan lifestyle?’ We show them that it is doable.”
Vegans are known for their dietary preferences. They do not consume any animal products. Instead, they get their nutrition from alternative sources. Foods such as whole grains, nuts, leafy greens, quinoa, soy and brown rice can be vegan diet staples.
Jasmine Briones runs the website Sweet Simple Vegan. She says she started filming mukbangs to help spread her lifestyle as well.
“Mukbangs are great. It is like your audience is sitting down and eating a meal with you, with a conversation. Eating is a very social act, and to bring it onto YouTube is genius. It is doing wonders for veganism,” Briones said.
The rise of mukbangs was faciliated by urban isolation during modern times, Hamed Haddadi of Queen Mary University of London, said. Independent living is growing, meaning that sharing meals is enjoyed more remotely, Haddadi said.
He said healthy titles get the most likes, because users seek social approval by posting and even eating healthy foods to project a better image of themselves with others.
“Daily videos allow you to create a deep connection and dialogues that follow through,” Georgie Spindler said. “We are in a journey together; above all, we share our meals on camera to inspire others.”
Tori Linville is a freelance writer and editor from Clarksville, Tennessee. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she’s faithfully watching her alma mater, the University of Alabama, dominate the football field.