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Introducing Nikocado Avocado, the YouTuber slowly killing himself for views

Some people quit smoking for their New Year’s resolution, others join the gym. YouTuber Nikocado Avocado, however, has the aim of hitting 400 pounds (just over 181 kilos). Chances are you’ve seen the famous mukbanger’s content recommended by the YouTube algorithm—known for his aggressive outbursts, his jarring persona and gluttony.

It’s the fuel that’s propelled him to stardom. It’s his identity, his brand—from KFC to Burger King, you name it and over the five years of his YouTube career, he’s eaten it. It’s what makes Nikocado Avocado (real name Nicholas Perry) stand out among the sea of countless other mukbang content creators. Let’s just say, if mukbang was pop music, he’d be Beyoncé.

Yet despite his success on the surface, Nikocado Avocado’s journey has a darker underbelly—a story of addiction to engagement that is leading him to an early grave. To understand how he got to this point, we have to look back.

The story of Nikocado Avocado

Only half a decade ago, Nikocado Avocado was a vegan vlogger living a modest life in Colombia. At the time, he weighed between 150 to 160 pounds, a stark contrast to his weight now, which is approximately 350 pounds. On 5 October 2016, the first of many mukbang videos were uploaded to his channel—and while he made the decision to start eating meat, he would still maintain a relatively clean diet.

At the time, the content creator stuck out like a sore thumb in the mukbang community, as in the beginning, these types of videos were almost entirely dominated by women creators. During his early career, Nikocado Avocado would almost always include his pet parrot in his videos while he ate—a novel and slightly absurd characteristic which would assist him in standing out from the crowd.

In the early stages of his mukbang career, he seemed to be relatively unscathed by his diet. According to research on the psychology of mukbang videos, this type of content impacts the “viewers’ perception of food consumption and thinness because mukbangers who were very thin and slim consumed very large portions of food and did not gain weight.” This is no doubt a spell which Nikocado Avocado found himself under—claiming to be a long-term fan of mukbang videos, it’s plausible that he was convinced he was immune to obesity caused by mukbang eating.

This was short-lived, however. When he weighed himself in May 2017, he’d gained 50 pounds. The problem is, instead of seeing this as a genuine health concern, he instead integrated it into his content with the goal of gaining both more weight and more views. In another upload titled “I’m getting fat & don’t know why,” he would state that his weight gain was “a medical mystery” that it was just “water weight” or “stress.” 

By the time he hit the 300 pounds mark in April 2020, his mindset had visibly changed. No longer was Nikocado Avocado claiming any ambition to change his ways—instead, he’d claim he passed the point of no return and that it was easier to embrace his weight for views rather than going through the effort of losing it. This only amplified his viewership—as his weight continued to grow, so did his ad revenue.

By April 2021, with more than five million subscribers across six channels, he’d earned enough money to move into a $2.3 million penthouse flat. A comment left on the video announcing his new move states, “enjoy your house bro. You got not much time left.” It encapsulates the dilemma Nikocado Avocado faces: the exchange of health for money. Or, on a deeper level: the exchange of health for meaning.

Why do people enjoy watching mukbang videos?

But how has the YouTuber amassed such a vast and loyal fanbase? According to Kagan Kircaburun—a psychology researcher at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) who specialises in behavioural addictions online and is the first academic researcher into the addictive behaviour of mukbang watching—the answer is not black and white.

“According to our research, there were many reasons why people watch mukbang videos. We pinned down six main reasons why people are drawn to the videos: entertainment; sexual gratification; obtaining healthy eating gratification; discovering different foods—particularly Asian cuisine; using mukbang to escape from real-life problems or unpleasant feelings; and, finally, to watch their favourite YouTuber,” Kircaburun told SCREENSHOT.

That said, the researcher also added that, in some circumstances, mukbang watching can have therapeutic value. He recalled a time when he interviewed a woman who watches mukbang videos to help her deal with the symptoms of anorexia. “It made her feel relieved, reducing anxiety and helping her eat,” Kircaburun noted. “Listening to the sounds of eating, as well as watching the facial expressions of mukbang creators, can also have a therapeutic effect for those dealing with eating disorders,” he continued.

This echoes the views of mukbang video creator Rammseth Mukbang, who noted that watching someone “eat a certain meal can soothe people who are on a diet—like they are ‘eating in spirit’. I’ve had feedback that my video helps people after a stressful day. We are entertainment, but there is also a human touch… We bring comfort to viewers, we make a positive impact.”

Emily, a 26-year-old student living in Philadelphia—and self-proclaimed “lover of mukbang”—highlighted how it was the “relatability and human aspect” that draws her to mukbang content. She shared that she often watches mukbang videos while eating too and that “reading the comments helps me feel like part of a wider community.”

This is also something Rammseth Mukbang touched upon, describing the online community as “flawed yet beautiful.” In his experience, there is a significant disconnect between larger and smaller creators. “Bigger channels naturally move away from the community. Between smaller channels, you develop some fun banter and real connections. You all want to grow, so there is a sense of camaraderie.”

Like with most things in life there are always two sides to the coin—the good always comes with the bad. Mukbang is no different. Kircaburun warned that there are numerous ways in which watching this type of content can lead to unhealthy behaviour. Not only can the videos “affect someone’s eating and table manners negatively,” it can also lead to “some adolescent and young people becoming obese as a result of watching the content for a long time,” he explained.

“Making these videos involves consuming a very high capacity of food, some creators are professional eaters. But young people see this and think it’s normal. This can lead to a warped perception of food quantity and ultimately obesity,” Kircaburun added. Nikocado Avocado’s story is an embodiment of this, a reflection of the impact mukbang making can have on the health of its creators (and viewers too). A hyperbole and amplified reflection? Perhaps, but a reflection nonetheless—and something which urgently needs addressing.

On one hand a success, on the other a death sentence

“On one hand it’s a success story, at least from a marketing perspective,” noted Paul Smith, CEO of Baked Bean Marketing—an online marketing agency that specialises in managing high profile influencers—when speaking to SCREENSHOT. “In five years, he’s amassed almost three million followers and hundreds of millions of views.”

But at what cost? It’s clear Nikocado Avocado has bitten more than he can chew. Smith added, “On the flip side, he’s 300 pounds more than he weighed when he started making videos. You have to ask whether all that money he’s generated from this brand is worth it. Let’s not kid ourselves, a lot of this is about money—but is it worth the health implications? That’s the burning question.”

Given the fact that obesity is linked to more than sixty other chronic diseases, the answer to that question is blatantly obvious. So why does he continue to grow bigger? Smith described this as a snowball effect—a damaging cycle caused by YouTubers “all fighting for the same view.” He explained, “You make one video mukbang video today where you eat a certain amount of food. Tomorrow, to keep up engagement, you’ll have to put out a video even better than that. In Nikocado Avocado’s case, for instance, it’ll be a bigger portion of food. It’s a never-ending spiral.”

This is on the mind of every online content creator. It’s the toxic nature of the internet that, unfortunately, keeps us all hooked—tapping into our primal drive to keep growing engagement and, ultimately, feel valued. The Nikocado Avocado case can be likened to clout-chasers hungry enough for views to throw themselves on top of trains for TikTok views or fall off cliffs for a selfie.

This isn’t a secret either, social media apps are designed to be like this. Often in our mind’s eye, when we think of social media addiction, emphasis is placed on the consumer, but it impacts creators too. Akin to the addictive behaviour of doomscrolling, Nikocado Avocado (and most similar YouTubers sacrificing their health for viewership) are showing tell-tale signs of an addiction disorder. With Nikocado Avocado’s story in particular, his deadly habits have been cemented through an unmistakable brand: with extravagant, violent freakouts and a merch empire of T-shirts that read “you made me do it” or “it’s just water weight.”

An addiction to food, views and meaning

Smith “absolutely” believes that this snowball effect can breed addictive behaviour. “If you make three to five thousand pounds from advertising revenue—sometimes five to twenty thousand—off the back of your videos, ask yourself: would you stop?” And I agree. It’s easy to paint him as the perpetrator here—an individual who has damaged his health through the consequence of his own actions.

But that viewpoint is narrow-minded. Instead, it’s better to think of him as the victim—a person who’s dug himself a hole he can’t escape from. This rings true when you consider how his diet is not just drastically altering his body, but his mind too.

Behavioural science experts believe that “all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive; and whenever “a habit changes into an obligation, it can be considered as an addiction.” Nikocado Avocado has created a situation where his habit of eating vast quantities of food in front of a camera has turned into an obligation. To treat such an addictive disorder requires a multi-level approach: from personal support to specialised training. But to what extent should YouTube and similar social network channels step in—and do they at all?

Luckily, the internet isn’t as Wild West as it was 15 years ago. YouTube does have policies that every content creator has to abide by otherwise their videos will be removed, but these are nowhere near as stringent as those on traditional television networks, Smith further explained. “It’s a completely different ballgame to mainstream television. I believe there should be more control over what’s posted online. YouTube doesn’t take action 95 per cent of the time—unless it’s explicitly dangerous—so where does it end?”

Perhaps it’s the mere-exposure effect, but from researching his journey over the last few months, I’ve developed a soft spot for the guy. Indeed, Nikocado Avocado is the manifestation of modern-day internet culture—the good and the bad. He represents how new media, unlike traditional TV, has allowed any creative who sees a gap in the market to make a success of themselves, just with a camera and an internet connection. On the other hand, he embodies the worst of what digital culture has to offer: an addiction to engagement which can lead to a death sentence. Until measures are taken, from outside sources and Nikocado Avocado himself, he’ll continue to eat himself into an early grave… One mukbang at a time.

Debunking recent rumours about Nikocado Avocado's death

In July 2022, reports of the YouTuber’s rumoured death flooded the internet. “Apparently Nikocado Avocado is dead? Honestly I don’t believe that. Sometimes he gets offline to probably prepare more of his atrocious mukbang videos,” wrote one Twitter user at the time.

The unfounded claims appeared on TikTok too and a YouTube Shorts too, with one clip titled “Nikocado Avocado Passed Away (Trigger Warning), pray for his family” trending on the platform. The video has since been deleted.

The rumours that he has passed away stemmed from the fact that he hadn’t been very active on social media recently, leading many to suspect that something bad had happened to him. On 27 October however, Nikocado Avocado shared yet another video on his YouTube channel, in turn reassuring all of his fans.

‘Trash streaming’ is a disturbing YouTube subculture where streamers get paid to broadcast abuse

“Broadcast Yourself,” urges YouTube’s official slogan as 500 hours worth of content is being uploaded to the platform this very minute as we speak. Encouraging users to share parts of their lives with others, the slogan highlights broadcasting’s potential for creators to amass a loyal fanbase en route to mainstream success. But what happens when a group of live streamers—due to low viewership and donations in gaming streams—decide to switch up their content and foster a murky online subculture altogether? Introducing ‘trash streaming’, a growing trend among Russian streamers that pushes legal boundaries in order to stand out on various platforms.

What is trash streaming and why is it a concerning trend?

The idea behind trash streaming is ‘fiendishly’ simple: invite a few friends over, get drunk, start a live broadcast and ask viewers to donate in exchange for carrying out the dares they suggest. This may sound like a rough-yet-explicit sketch of most live streams out there, but what really drives trash streams into a subject of concern is the type of dares suggested and carried out.

Featuring a group of alcohol-induced streamers, trash streams are usually set up by an individual who hosts what are known as “trash parties.” Inviting other participants to engage in dares, the group ultimately split the earnings among themselves after a trash stream. Bidding as much as 15,000 Russian rubles ($205) per dare, these streamers are often suggested to engage in bare-knuckle brawls with others, rotten eggs fights, extinguishing cigarettes on their bodies and jumping from third-floor balconies for viewers to witness. It doesn’t stop there. Over the past year, trash streamers have undergone a concerning shift into a list of verbal and sexual assault cases.

During a trash stream in October 2020, blogger Andrei Burim (popularly known as Mellstroy) invited a group of women to a party in Moscow and offered to split the revenue gathered in exchange for collaborative dares. During the broadcast, however, Burim repeatedly slammed a 21-year-old model’s head against a table. As of today, the blogger is awaiting a trial for assault. Although YouTube blocked his main channel, where he had amassed a following of 500,000, Burim now streams via his backup channels while publishing exclusive content on Telegram.

Another case involves Ivan Pozharnikov, a thrash streamer famous for mocking homeless people in exchange for donations from viewers. With more than 700,000 views on his YouTube channel, the streamer admits to filming such videos with the aim of “re-educating the homeless.” One of his victims is a 32-year-old Yaroslavl native, Valentin Ganichev, who allegedly takes part in various trash streams where he is pelted with eggs, doused in cold water and even buried alive—all in exchange for a meal and a roof over his head. On most streams, Ganichev is either drunk or out of his mind on drugs while pleading for help during the dares. This led many viewers to believe he was being forced into participation. Following an official police investigation, however, Ganichev admitted to being a volunteer for trash streams.

One of the most shocking incidents in the subculture involves trash streamer Stanislav Reshetnyak, popularly known as Reeflay in the community. In December 2020, Reeflay locked his pregnant girlfriend, Valentina Grigoryeva, out on the balcony of his apartment in sub-zero temperatures. Dressed only in her underwear, Grigoryeva quickly succumbed to hypothermia as the streamer then proceeded to drag her body into the apartment and call for an ambulance. The entire event—from being paid $1,000 by a viewer to inflict abuse on his girlfriend to the police arriving in his apartment and declaring Grigoryeva dead—was broadcasted live on his YouTube channel. The trash streamer is currently sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter.

The controversial appeal backing viewers

According to Slangit, trash streaming started out as an online trend in the mid-2010s on streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch. Considered as a “marginal spin-off from the world of video game broadcasts,” trash streamers majorly consist of gamers who have migrated to the uncensored eco-system of YouTube following their permanent bans on Twitch. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have further propelled viewers towards trash streams as a form of entertainment in itself. The demand, in this case, is born out of an amalgamation between lonely viewers and ‘streamer boredom’—both seeking a sense of community.

So, what is the appeal for such streams among its audience exactly? Imagine commenting under a live stream of your favourite celebrity. Now imagine them noticing your comment and reading it out loud and live on-air. Trash streams essentially build on this interactiontaking it to a level where they are even ready to break laws to fulfill the challenges assigned by you.

“I was attracted by its real emotions,” said Anton, a 25-year-old security guard. In an interview with Russia Beyond, he admitted to falling down the rabbit hole during a work shift “out of sheer boredom,” “You can watch it endlessly, it’s just like real life.” For 19-year-old Nikita, trash streams are a hangout where streamers are very likely to listen and respond to whatever he has to say. According to a 16-year-old schoolgirl, Polina, trash streams used to be funnier despite their bad taste. She highlighted how “there were lots of funny jokes about the death of a participant’s mother” where viewers sent in donations with comments saying that it was his mother communicating to the streamer from the other world.

While Polina cracked up after recounting this incident, Anton was quick to break down in sobs. “They should all be locked up except for Valentin Ganichev (the 32-year-old homeless volunteer for trash streams mentioned above), who’s mentally ill. It’s nothing but sadism in the highest degree,” he added in the interview. Another fan of trash streams, nicknamed ‘xbpm_music’, claimed that the broadcasts have helped him “pine less” for his homeland. “It’s fun for me to see typical Russian idiots,” he said. “Sometimes I look at them and think: ‘Damn, I really need to do something good, otherwise I’ll become like them.’ Motivation or what?” he philosophised.

“Getting pleasure from watching violence is a mental disorder,” said Alena, a practising psychologist, in the interview with Russia Beyond. In her opinion, trash streamers satisfy both their own need for savagery and that of their audience. The psychologist equated an average viewer to an armchair boxer “who would probably beat his wife but knows that she would go to the police.” She also explained how the audience often includes those who have been previous victims of assault and humiliation themselves. “Understanding that ‘I’m not the only one with a grievance’ helps many to crawl out of the pit of despair,” the psychologist added.

Another psychologist, Lyubov Kalinovskaya, highlighted how viewers are the main participants in trash streams since they ultimately control the actions carried out by streamers. This, in turn, pushes viewers down a lane where they vicariously realise and re-evaluate their own ambitions. “For many, trash streams are unique because they guarantee reality and no one ever knows how it will end. That creates a thrill for the viewer like ancient Romans enjoyed deciding the fate of a defeated gladiator,” said Kalinovskaya.

On the other side of this equation, the appeal backing streamers essentially lies in trash streaming being considered as “a form of voyeurism thousands are happy to pay for.” In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Vasilyenko, an ex-porn actor and reality TV show contestant admitted to launching his trash stream network in January 2020 to “capitalise on the interest in his persona.” When Russia went into lockdown in April, Vasilyenko left his job and began streaming full-time, playing video games during the day and inviting friends for alcohol-fueled dares at night. “It was easy money,” he said. Streaming under the name ‘German Yagodka’, Vasilyenko makes 8,000 rubles ($109) per day on YouTube—worth half of a cashier’s monthly wage—despite having a mere 4,500 subscribers. In essence, the trash streamer admitted to being paid to have fun with friends without having to venture out.

The rise of trash streaming can also be traced back to the competition on various streaming platforms. “The competition is fierce—you have to do something radical to stand out,” said Konstantin Gabov, a sociologist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, to Radio Free Europe. “And in Russia, perhaps due to a low quality of life, people are ready to do it and others are ready to pay for it.”

“Banning trash streaming is like trying to ban fake news”

Multiple accounts of deaths and violent assaults ensuing trash streams have prompted the government to crack down on the trend altogether. On 16 December 2020, the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament proposed a ban on trash streams. An active part of Russia’s wider turn towards internet censorship, the ban also mandates punishment of up to six years for those who violate the same.

Given how the authorities previously failed to ban the controversial messaging app Telegram from the country, however, experts—as well as the streamers themselves—believe that the initiative is doomed. The list of reasons also includes the vagueness of the trend in terms of defining it legally. “Banning trash is like trying to ban fake news,” said German Klimenko, a digital entrepreneur and former adviser to Putin, in an interview with Rappler. “No one can even agree on a definition of what this stuff really is.”

While YouTube and Twitch constantly cracks down on such content, some live streams manage to evade restrictions. Even if their channels end up getting blocked on these platforms, trash streamers often operate using alternate, backup channels to circumvent the ban. They also upload exclusive content to Telegram and other file hosting services. “The only way to ban trash streaming would be to convert Russia’s internet into something more like Cuba’s or North Korea’s,” Klimenko concluded.

Although all efforts have the potential of ending up in vain, the Russian government is committed to cleansing the internet of trash streams with various legislations. According to The Sun, the government is currently considering forcing live streamers to register as individual entrepreneurs—making them pay taxes on donations and allowing the police to track them.

Trash streams essentially incentivises the boundaries of what’s considered legal and safe. Every time a trash stream is cut off from mainstream viewing, it only prompts two others to pop up on alternate platforms. It also makes one wonder about the lengths the trend would go to before it ultimately dies down. “It probably won’t be long before we see a professional studio production, shot from a first-person perspective, allowing the viewer to ‘try on’ the role of the murderer or victim, not just be a watcher,” a psychologist shared in the interview with Russia Beyond.

The fact that more than 2,000 hours worth of content has already been uploaded to YouTube while you read this article doesn’t seem to help this case either. Because no matter how wild the content is, it will always find an audience.