Why are we so obsessed with watching cooking videos?

26th Jan 18 | Lifestyle

We spoke to a behavioural analyst to find out.

Cooking of Mexican guacamole sauce. Man preparing Mexican sauce guacamole

You know the feeling: You’re sitting on the sofa, scrolling through your phone, and then all of a sudden you realise two hours have passed and all you’ve been doing is looking at videos of food.

There’s something oddly addictive about cooking videos. We’re not talking about elaborate shows you watch on TV, but rather, the incredibly simple videos that pop up on your Instagram or Facebook feed, showing sped-up recipes that normally last around one or two minutes.

The format was popularised by Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel (the English version is called Proper Tasty), which has over 92 million likes on Facebook. But why are we so obsessed with watching these bite-size videos?

We spoke to behavioural analyst Jo Allison from Canvas8 to get to the bottom of it all.

It’s all about the simplicity

Pumpkin Mac 'N' Cheese

Pumpkin Mac 'N' CheeseFULL RECIPE: http://bit.ly/2yKkmVb

Posted by Proper Tasty on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It’s hardly like food videos are a new thing – cooking shows have been around for decades. But for Jo, it’s the simplicity of formats like Tasty that have really captured our attention.

“The most successful videos tend to be the ones that are simple and practical,” Jo explains.

You can watch a full recipe in under two minutes – which is much more accessible than sifting through cookbooks or watching a programme for half an hour. Jo thinks this particularly appeals to time-poor millennials: “Many don’t have enough free time to be browsing cookbooks or spending hours at the stove,” she says. “Food videos like Tasty offer quick, bite-sized content, fulfilling people’s desire to get busy in the kitchen, but without taking up their entire evening.”

Gen Y loves to cook

Sticky Toffee Bundt Cake

Sticky Toffee Bundt CakeFULL RECIPE: http://bit.ly/2zVtWES

Posted by Proper Tasty on Saturday, October 28, 2017

Jo thinks that Generation Y – otherwise known as millennials, or those born during the 1980s and 1990s – increasingly love to cook, compared to previous generations.

Cooking, health and food prep are an increasing preoccupation. “Studies show that the younger generations are showing greater interest in cooking – the ability to whip up a meal from scratch is becoming somewhat of a status symbol,” says Jo.

The fact channels like Tasty are social first means they’re squarely aimed at millennials. It’s not even like you have to hunt down these videos – they autoplay as you scroll through your newsfeed, meaning you’re hooked without even pressing a button.

Another thing that sets these videos apart from traditional food programmes is the way they are shot. Jo says: “The ‘top down’ view also puts the viewer in the chef’s shoes – which can create a greater emotional connection with the dish being created – and in turn, make them more likely to want to make it themselves.”

Instead of feeling like you’re disassociated from the chef and the meal, you instead feel part of the action and are more likely to get in the kitchen to try it yourself.

Food porn and the social media generation

With more than 250 million photos tagged #food on Instagram, there’s no doubt we’re obsessed.

Psychologically, humans are drawn to food – and this goes back to the caveman era. “People have a natural desire to look at food – a phenomenon known as ‘visual hunger’,” Jo explains. “The human brain evolved when food was much scarcer than it is now, but that means we have a natural desire to forage for food, and visual stimulus is a big part of meeting that desire.”

Sure, we don’t need to forage, but our brains are still programmed to seek out food, and we feel satisfied when we find it – even through videos.

Plus, this is undoubtedly the generation of oversharers. For many, it’s not enough to just enjoy the videos: we also want everyone else to know that we did by posting our own pictures online.

“Because this generation are used to sharing almost every aspect of their lives on social media,” Jo says, “sharing what they are eating and cooking is a natural extension of this.”

There are many layers of satisfaction that comes with food on social media. First: the visual satisfaction of watching the delicious food being made. Second: the feeling of success you get when you make it yourself. And third: the social satisfaction when you share a picture of your meal on Instagram and start racking up the likes.

Everyone needs to eat

This might seem like an obvious point, but it’s worth making: everyone needs to eat. Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone is therefore interested in what they eat and will definitely lap up foodie content online, but this fact gives food a kind of universality that few other things have.

Jo says: “Our need for food is universal: we all need to eat, and foraging for and preparing food is a natural human instinct.”

This is why food videos have been so much more popular than other formats. Buzzfeed has also launched Nifty, a DIY craft channel, but with 30 million likes it pales in comparison to Tasty. “Something like crafts – although an increasingly popular pastime – simply doesn’t tap into the same basic human appetite,” Jo explains.

If the hashtags are to be believed – and with their numbers they’re difficult to brush off – food truly is a unifying thing.

© Press Association 2018

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