Thousands watch binge-eaters on a webcam

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Thousands watch binge-eaters on a webcam

March 27, 2015 - Jim Denison, PhD

Rachel Ahn, who goes by 'Aebong-ee,' is among the top 100 most-watched mukbang stars in South Korea. (Credit: NPR/Elise Hu)

This headline caught my eye: “Koreans Have An Insatiable Appetite For Watching Strangers Binge Eat.”  Live-streamers who consume massive amounts of calories in front of webcams (a practice known as mukbang) have become celebrities in their South Korean culture.  There are as many as 3,000 mukbang stars, some of which make up to $10,000 each month through their broadcasts.

Why are they so popular?  One celebrity explains: “Viewers who watch my mukbang are on a diet.  So you call this a sort of gratification through others.”  A mukbang media manager believes that such shows provide a sense of community around a dinner table, even if the table is only virtual.  An East Asian studies professor adds that, in an age of plastic surgery and artificial celebrities, audiences hunger for something real—and eating is “identified as being natural, and spontaneous.”

In a similar vein, a food company is now offering a virtual date experience for people who eat ramen noodles.  A Japanese actor gazes at the person as he or she prepares and then eats the noodles.  “I feel so happy watching you eat those delicious noodles,” he says.  The site creates the feel of a date with the celebrity.

No matter how much we buy and consume, there will always be a human hunger for community with other humans.  When tragedy strikes, even on the other side of the world, we feel it.  And we grieve for those who grieve.

When I heard that the airliner crash in France was likely caused by what is being called a “kamikaze co-pilot,” I thought of his parents and the family of all those he killed.  When I read that hundreds of mass graves have been discovered across Mexico, my mind went to their parents and grandparents and children.  When I heard that Bowe Bergdahl, the former Taliban captive, is now being charged with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy, my mind went to the soldiers who died searching for him.  And to the parents who raised him.

Good news elicits a vicarious response as well.  Raquel Tillett was homeless in San Francisco before an online campaign raised enough money to secure a home for her and her children.  Clearly, people she did not know cared enough about her to sacrifice on her behalf.  Also in today’s news, a police officer in Louisville, Kentucky helped a struggling runner finish a 10K, walking hand-in-hand with her the last two miles.  I wish I had been there to cheer them on.

Our Father was.  The psalmist called God the “Shepherd of Israel” (Psalm 80:1).  Our Lord is indeed the shepherd of his people, no matter what our circumstances seem to dictate.  Even though the shepherd is on duty, sheep can still hurt each other and themselves.  Weather can still threaten their lives.  Wolves can still attack.

It is human nature to blame God when we most need to trust God. (Tweet this) Our challenges do not indicate our Father’s irrelevance—rather, they show how much we need his empathy and help.  Fosdick was right: “Our power is not so much in us as through us.”  What is the source of your power today?  Or better, Who?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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