While most people tend to watch Youtube for entertainment or tutorials, last year a strange trend called “Let’s Study Together” went viral. Created by tertiary-aged students for their peers, the premise is simple and almost boring – the Youtubers simply filmed themselves studying, often alone and usually without sound. What better encouragement than watching someone else study during exam season, right?
The origin of the trend was traced back to 2015, posted by a Japanese Youtuber by the name of Sweet Flower. Known as gongbang in Korea and benkyou douga in Japan, there are now many versions of the video, posted by high school and university students across Korea and Japan. The videos range from 5 minutes to over an hour.
Some of these videos – boring as they may be – are actually very popular. Hajime Shacho ( はじめしゃちょー2)), a famous Japanese Youtuber, produced a benkyo douga video which has racked up almost 4 million views since 2016. In Japan, many of the clips seemed aimed at students studying for college entrance exams, which could explain their popularity. Of course, having a good-looking guy in his comfort zone could also be a factor.
Other Youtubers – like はなお (Hanao) and マサさん。(Masa san) also have a decent audience, considering their benkyou douga videos are over an hour long! Hanao has also added a study buddy in one of his videos, which garnered over 2 million views; the video is over 2 hours long!
Korean students also participated in this trend – one notable student is known by his YouTube handle 노잼봇 (or Bot-No-Jam, meaning “a robot which is no fun” in Korean) who has uploaded a boring gongbang video which has over 200,000 views. There have been 4,000 gongbang videos release last year alone in Korea, and like Bot-No-Jam, some of these Youtubers broadcast videos that can sometimes stretch to 7 hours long!
It seems that for many students, simply watching such videos makes them feel as if they’re studying together with a total stranger. For some, it even provides encouragement – otherwise, why would you watch someone study for over an hour?
“I feel a sense of rivalry when I see streamers sitting down and reading books for a long time. Whenever I feel like giving up on studying, I watch gongbang and recharge my motivation,” Yoon Min-young, a 23-year-old college student recently told Korean Herald.
This trend of “Let’s Study Together” has also spilled over to English-speaking countries, with dedicated “study” Youtube channels like The Strive Studies and Study Vibes broadcasting videos ranging from one to six hours long. Simply search for “study together” on Youtube and you’ll find more of these videos. Unlike most of the Japanese or Korean videos, the English-speaking versions often feature women.
In an era where social media, mobile phones and the internet in general provides countless distractions for students, it’s interesting to see that these mediums are being used for something productive.