- Alike is a new dating and friendship app for Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
- The app was created by Hanmin Yang, a Korean-Canadian entrepreneur living in Toronto.
- With Alike, Yang wants to “celebrate the Asian experience” by creating bonds and a sense of community.
Hanmin Yang, a Korean-Canadian entrepreneur living in Toronto, suffered a lot of racism when he grew up in Canada. Without many childhood friends, he spent a lot of time watching popular movies and television, and he internalized racism because of the way Asians were portrayed.
Decades later, following a divorce and several career pivotals, he came up with the idea of creating an app where users could connect and heal past racial trauma together.
This led to Alike, a dating and friendship app for the Asian and Pacific Islander community that was recently launched in Canada and the United States. The video platform aims to “celebrate the Asian experience” by fostering meaningful connections among its users to create a sense of community, according to its website.
Yang started developing Alike in 2019 as a dating app that was supposed to be a safe space for islanders in Asia and the Pacific. In his research, Yang saw an app targeting East Asians that deeply disturbed him.
“It was so disgusting for the Asian female fetish,” Yang said. “For example, women used the app for free, but men paid.”
He wanted to create an app that combats the hypersexualization of Asian women and the emasculation of Asian men, two phenomena rooted in historical xenophobic propaganda, anti-immigration sentiment and portrayals of old Hollywood movies – phenomena that are further reinforced today by our current TV shows and movies.
At the same time, Yang said that Alike is meant to be complementary to the mainstream dating apps we are all familiar with.
“We’re not just saying dating other Asians,” Yang said. “People typically use three to four dating apps at the same time, so we’re just offering another option.”
Preferences can be for dating can be set to search for male, female, or non-binary person in any combo. When users started requesting a feature to make friends, Yang expanded Alike, and only same-sex users can connect to each other in Alike’s Friendship feature so they wouldn’t be abused.
Alike strengthens the search for meaningful connections by designing certain things differently from traditional applications.
Instead of a written biography, the app requires at least one video recording to download. Using prompts such as “I knew when I was Asian when…” or “My tongues of love are…”, video clips allow users to get a first impression of the other person by looking at them. seeing and hearing him speak, which several users told Insider they liked.
One user from Brooklyn told Insider that the video portion “offers something new and serves as a gateway to prevent people who are unwilling to put in the effort,” while another user said it does. “gives more legitimacy to the profiles here”.
While people of non-Asian origin from the Pacific Islands can join the app, there is an option to correspond with everyone or only users of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, making it easier to navigate the vast range of diversity within the group. All users who are not of Asian and Pacific Islander descent should be community-friendly.
To “like” a user, you must attach a message in response to a video or photo in that person’s profile, initiating a conversation.
There is also no classic dating app swipe functionality.
“I didn’t want the simplified approach where it’s designed to slide based on how someone looks,” Yang said. “It forces you to watch their videos and find out if this is someone you would really like to connect with.”
Many early adopters told Insider that it’s easy to find similarities with matches on Alike.
Abigail Asuncion, an Alike user in Toronto, said she has connected with other users about common interests raised by video prompts, such as games and food.
“I connected with a girl about ‘Vita Lemon Drink’,” Asuncion said. “Growing up, only Asians know and drank this drink as it is usually sold in Asian grocery stores. It was one of the photos in her profile and we clicked right away!”
One user, who grew up in Hershey, PA, enjoys how Alike’s design does some of the groundwork to find connections via prompts.
“A lot of the responses are similar to how I feel on topics, and it makes me feel less isolated,” they said. “Especially as someone who grew up in an area without a lot of Asians to interact with, it’s nice to see that some of the quirks I have are not unique to me.”
A new user said he is looking forward to the difference between Alike and other apps.
“I appreciate that [Alike] provides preferences to Asians as a filtering method, ”he said. “For me, that’s a big plus, but by no means a necessity. It helps if a potential match can resonate with you culturally to some extent or at least can understand how that culture shapes and affects your relationship dynamics. “
Jude Santos, based in Southern California, was a beta user who started using Alike for dating. Most of the people he was in contact with were far away, so he prefers to make friends at the moment, but remains optimistic about Alike.
“Unlike other apps, I know that with Alike there is [an element of] shared experience, knowing that my potential partner is of Asian descent, ”Santos said.
Yang hopes that Alike users find a stronger sense of belonging and become more open after sharing their life experiences. This may be all the more timely given that Alike’s launch is in the midst of an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, which are too reminiscent of the hatred and Islamophobia South Asians had to endure 20 years ago. after September 11.
Alike started before the pandemic, so Yang said his development was not directly influenced by it. But he noticed that the community was becoming more aware of an undercurrent of anti-Asian racism, more interested in its heritage, and taking note of Alike’s mission.
“What I really want people to take away from their experience is to find self-esteem in the process of connecting with others,” Yang said. “We are trying to heal our community and by loving yourself you can find the cure”
Right now, healing and finding a way forward as a community can be more important than ever.