This new dating and friendship app wants to help Asians and Pacific Islanders ‘find community and belonging’

Screenshots of profiles and chats from the Alike dating app.
  • Alike is a new dating and friendship app for the 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 connections and a sense of community.

Hanmin Yang, a Korean-Canadian entrepreneur living in Toronto, experienced a lot of racism as a kid growing up in Canada. Without many childhood friends, he spent a lot of time consuming popular films and TV, and he internalized racism because of how Asians were portrayed.

Decades later, following a divorce and multiple career pivots, he got the idea to create an app where users could connect and heal from past racial traumas together.

That led to Alike, a dating and friendship app for the Asian and Pacific Islander community that recently launched in Canada and the US. The video-based platform aims to “celebrate the Asian experience” by fostering meaningful connections between its users to build a sense of community, according to its website.

Alike founder Hanmin Yang.

Yang started developing Alike in 2019 as a dating app meant to be a safe space for Asian and Pacific Islanders. In his research, Yang saw an app targeting East Asians that deeply disturbed him.

“It was so disgusting for the female Asian fetish,” Yang said. “For one example, the women used the app for free, but the men would pay.”

He wanted to create an app that fights the hypersexualization of Asian women and the emasculation of Asian men, both phenomena rooted in historical xenophobic propaganda, anti-immigration sentiment, and depictions by old Hollywood films – phenomena still reinforced today by our current TV shows and movies.

At the same time, Yang said Alike is meant to be complementary to the mainstream dating apps we all know.

“We’re not saying only date other Asians,” Yang said. “Users typically are using three to four dating apps simultaneously, so we’re just providing another option.”

Preferences can be for dating can be set for seeking a man, woman, or nonbinary person in any combo. When female users began requesting a feature for making friends, Yang expanded Alike, and only users of the same gender can connect with one another in the friendship feature of Alike so it’s not abused.

Alike reinforces finding meaningful connections by designing a few things differently than mainstream apps.

A profile on dating and friendship app Alike.

Instead of written bios, the app requires at least one video recording to be uploaded. Using prompts like “I knew when I was Asian when…” or “My love languages are…”, the video clips allow users to get a first impression of the other person by seeing and hearing them talk, which several users told Insider they loved.

One user in Brooklyn told Insider the video portion “offers something new and acts as a gate to keep out people who aren’t willing to put in effort,” while another user said it “gives further legitimacy to profiles here.”

While people of non-Asian Pacific Islander descent can join the app, there’s an option to match with everyone or only users of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, making it easier to navigate the vast spectrum of diversity within the group. Any users who join who aren’t of Asian Pacific Islander descent are expected to be respectful of the community.

To “like” a user, you have to attach a message in response to a video or photo in that person’s profile, initiating a conversation.

A chat on dating and friendship app Alike.

There’s also no classic dating app swipe feature.

“I didn’t want the simplified approach where it’s designed to swipe through based all on how someone looks,” Yang said. “This forces you to watch their videos and get a good sense of whether this is someone you’d actually like to connect to.”

Many early users told Insider it has been easy to find commonalities with matches on Alike.

Abigail Asuncion, an Alike friendship user in Toronto, said she connected to other users about common interests that were brought up from the video prompts, like gaming and food.

“I connected to one girl about ‘Vita Lemon Drink,'” Asuncion said. “Growing up, only Asians know and have had this drink because it’s typically sold in Asian grocery stores. It was one of the pictures on her profile and right away we clicked!”

A profile on dating and friendship app Alike.

One user, who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania, appreciates how the design of Alike does some of the groundwork in finding connections through prompts.

“A lot of responses are similar to how I feel about topics, and it makes me feel less isolated,” they said. “Especially as someone who grew up in an area without many Asians to interact with, it’s nice to see that some of the quirks I have aren’t unique to me.”

A new user said he looks forward to how Alike may be different from other apps.

“I appreciate that [Alike] provides preferences to Asians as a filtering method,” he said. “For me it’s a big plus, but by no means a necessity. It helps if a potential match can resonate with you culturally to some degree or at least can empathize with 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 connected with were far away, so he’s preferred to make friends for now, but remains optimistic about Alike.

“Unlike other apps, I know with Alike there’s [an element of] shared experience, knowing my potential partner is of Asian descent,” Santos said.

Dating and friendship app Alike.

Yang hopes users on Alike find a stronger sense of belonging and become more open after sharing life experiences. This may be especially timely as Alike’s launch is in the midst of a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, too reminiscent of the hate and Islamophobia that South Asians had to endure 20 years ago post-9/11.

Alike was started pre-pandemic, so Yang said its development was not influenced by it directly. But he has noticed the community becoming more aware of an undercurrent of anti-Asian racism, more interested in their heritage, and taking notice of Alike’s mission.

“What I really want users to take away from their experience is finding self-love in the process of connecting with others,” Yang said. “We’re trying to heal our community and through loving yourself you can find healing,”

Right now, healing and finding a way to move forward as a community may be more important than ever.

Read the original article on Business Insider