Prepare a whole bunch of food, devour all of it in front of a camera and earn some money if the audience is satisfied with your eating - this is what online eating streamers do. Isn't this the best job for foodies?
It used to be, indeed, but not anymore - not after eating streamers mushroomed on Chinese internet in recent years. Nowadays, nobody wants to sit in front of a computer and watch an ordinary person eating an ordinary meal. You have to be "outstanding" to attract the audience, be famous and thus make a profit from it. For example, you will have to eat 100 boiled eggs, or 10 bags of super spicy instant noodles. Or even worse, you will have to eat live poisonous bugs. Then you might have a chance of entering the hall of fame.
But first think twice - such online popularity may cost you your health or even your life. Why can skinny girls gobble up a surprisingly heavy meal, such as a whole roast lamb? This is because many of them choose to put a finger in their throat and force themselves to throw up every half an hour. Many of these girls suffer from anorexia, an eating disorder.
There are worse cases. For example, an online streamer surnamed Sun in Hefei, East China's Anhui Province, recently died after eating live centipedes, mealworms and geckos during a live-stream. He was only trying to attract more people's attention. Tragically, Sun emitted the last breath while the live-stream was still being broadcast to his audience.
I asked some of my friends why they like to watch eating live-streaming. Some said that they were on a diet and could not stand the overwhelming hunger, so they would turn to these streamers for help. "Watching them eat satisfies my empty stomach. I imagine the taste as if I ate it by myself," one of my friends said. I tried, and it is true. Every time the streamer bites inot a fried chicken, there would be crunching sounds. Watching the streamer eat a whole bowl of fried chicken and wipe her greasy fingers made me feel satisfied as well.
Others said they watch eating live-streams because they did not want to eat alone. "Eating alone makes me feel alone and I hate it," they said. Indeed, when you are eating alone, clicking on an eating live-stream and watching the streamer eating at the same time feels more consolatory.
But none of my friends understand why people would like to watch others eating centipedes and geckos alive. They are not tasty, they make people feel sick, and they may be poisonous and fatal. I believe that no one wants to eat live bugs, unless there are audiences who love to watch such bizarre live-streaming.
Some people say they feel a sense of excitement when they see streamers eating a live gecko or eating more than 100 boiled eggs. To express their satisfaction, they buy virtual gifts from the live-streaming platform and send them to the streamers online. A famous eating live-streamer named Tongtong, who often appears on live-streaming platform Kuaishou, said by receiving online gifts, she has already bought an apartment which is worth about 1 million yuan ($140,000). But because of vomiting meal after meal, she is becoming skinnier and her voice is increasingly hoarse.
Although many followers said they were worried about Tongtong's health, they have not stopped watching her swallowing food. And for now, Tongtong would not stop hurting herself and making money.
Your body is a temple, and you should take care of it. Compared with binge-eating and anorexia, slowly enjoying every bite of food is much better. Eating live-streaming could have been a good thing: to share delicious food and to communicate with the audience. But now the industry is obviously misguided. This requires stricter management of the live-streaming platform.
If these streamers were banned from the platform, and if everybody refused to watch such weird live-streams, maybe Sun's death could have been avoided. If the audience can restrain their curiosity, and if live-streamers can care more about their health, maybe China's live-streaming industry will be much healthier in the future.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. firstname.lastname@example.org