Something very foreign has invaded the live streaming service called Twitch. Best known as a platform in which gamers stream live gameplay, Twitch has been expanding as of late. It may be due to the corporate influence of billion dollar parent company Amazon that Twitch is morphing into an all around streaming platform. As of late, game development streaming and even art demonstration streams have had dedicated channels on the service. The latest addition to the Twitch library is Social Eating.
What is Social Eating? Well, a quick glance at the newly added Social Eating section on Twitch will bring you to a page full of people eating food. That’s it. Yes, there are conversations had over the plates of food on stream but the over all main course of the stream is just the eating itself. Some may argue that there is no point to watching someone else eat food but the same can be said about most video content including that which is often viewed on Twitch. Why bother watching someone play a video game? It’s not like the viewers are gaining anything significant in the process. So why bother even watching the content? Was Twitch mad to add the new section on their service?
The answer is the persona. People enjoy watching others react to the content we do. It’s human nature to at times want to discuss with people things we like and Twitch streams provide small communities with a persona holding it together. Google’s YouTube has known the importance of likeable personas. When viewership milestones are met YouTube often gifts its personas with special Play Button awards. These personas keep viewers coming back. As with social eating people enjoy watching their favorite food be digested by their favorite online celebrity. The community is there as well and casual conversions are had. Believe it or not, social eating does not have its origins in the United States. This community has been forming for quite a while and Twitch is the perfect platform for it to nourish and grow in the west.
Social Eating’s history lies in the East as Mukbang
In South Korea Social Eating is a cultural phenomenon that has exploded in popularity. In South Korea Social Eating is actually titled Mukbang and features a wide array of youth eating an obscene amount of food in one sitting. A wide variety of streamers with unique personalities engage in eating in front of viewers and competing with rival streamers as well. Looking to expand, many Mukbang personalities have shifted towards YouTube for more views and if you arrive at the correct time, can even see some of them on Twitch.
The Media Rejects Social Eating
The trend was so puzzling for many foreign audiences looking from the outside that they just couldn’t accept that people would just watch others eat food. Many strange accusations were thrown out by Munchies reporter Charlet Dubac including possible sexual arousal from watching personalities eat food. “Why would Koreans watch others eat food”, Dubac asked herself through out her dive into the world of Mukbang. Sadly, at the end of her journey it seems as though Dubac’s perception of what she considers normal kept her from trying to understand the Mukbang phenomenon.
Many off these accusations have actually lined up and mirrored what many thought of gamers in the first place. Like Mukbang, American media has at times shunned gaming and it was evident when late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel publicly expressed displeasure in the fact that game streaming is a popular phenomenon. Outraged gamers gathered in the comments section of Kimmel’s YouTube channel with less than positive intentions. In response Kimmel further mocked gamers in one of his late night episodes. If any lesson is to be learned about the whole fiasco it’s that many people do not accept what they do not understand and Mukbang in the west may face a similar or worse fate than gaming.
Over Before it Begins for Social Eating?
As the saying goes, history repeats itself and the stigma attached to Social Eating may be too hard to ignore. Like its past in South Korea, Social Eating will have a lot of outside viewers judging it harshly. Like gaming, it will be perceived as a mundane childish hobbie picked apart on national television. Yet throughout all the adversity it will face, the future of social eating shines bright. Viewers are pouring in on Twitch. Korean eaters are joining services like Twitch and YouTube to share their culture. Americans themselves are starting their own food eating shows on these platforms. Adoption rate seems high and even though it will have turbulence along the way, Social Eating will become another adopted trend by the western world.