I’m Obsessed With a YouTube Fast Food Vlogger
This story is part of the Internet Time Machine, a collection about life online in the 2010s.
Here’s a confession: I am obsessed with watching videos of an overweight man stuffing his face with fast food.
It’s not a sexual fetish, or any kind of fetish at all, really. Perhaps it’s best classified as an interest, a hobby. But aren’t those words reserved for collecting baseball cards and watching birds and playing tennis?
I do not know this man, Joey Hernandez, not personally. I only know him through a screen, another stranger in an online world of strangers. The videos on his YouTube Channel, Joey’s World Tour, offer only fleeting glimpses into his personal life. A few of his older videos show him cooking in his home kitchen, with the limited counter space and outdated appliances that’d drive the yuppie house hunters on HGTV directly into an existential crisis. Here and there, Joey drops hints: He mentions living in central California and having attended culinary school, and a quick Google search confirms these details. Last year, I attempted to contact Joey via email and social media to learn more about him for the sake of a piece I was writing and also to satisfy my own curiosity, but my repeated requests went unanswered.
Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe getting bland answers to my blander questions — what inspired the attempt to make a career of “reviewing” fast food? What is his long-term vision for his channel? Who does he perceive his subscribers to be, and why does he think they tune in? Etc. — would dampen my fire, and I’d be forced to take up a new pastime, such as swing dance or stamp collecting. Maybe our relationship is exactly as it should be, with Joey on my Macbook screen, and me, an anonymous viewer, one of 300,000+ subscribers.
Joey didn’t always do fast food reviews. His channel initially flailed, all these detatched tentacles grasping in vain for a through line. In the early days, he posted videos of his trip to Disneyland. He posted videos of himself buying a cell phone at a shopping mall; walking labored laps around the track of a local school while discussing his struggles with…