This post was updated Feb. 9 at 10:06 a.m.
Second-year electrical engineering student Bryant Yang lives in Los Angeles. His close friend lives in Seattle. What brought them together?
“I definitely wouldn’t have met him without the subtle asian dating (Facebook page),” Yang said.
There’s being a wingman, and then there’s introducing your friend to over half a million people around the world. They are not the same.
If you’ve heard of the digital phenomenon of the subtle asian traits Facebook group, then you may have heard of its cousin, subtle asian dating. The Facebook group also aims to highlight Asian culture, but with a specific focus on discussing – and kickstarting – romantic relationships. Like other groups, it’s full of memes, deep discussions and viral stories.
But the main attraction of the group are posts called “hypes,” which are personal advertisements detailing a list of pros and cons on why one should consider dating someone.
Bruins have latched onto this group, which has become its own online community. From undergraduate students to alumni, dozens have participated in these hypes. Some are looking for long-term relationships and others were looking travel buddies as they make trips across the country. And many more are on the group scrolling and reacting through it all.
The posts are often written in a humorous, sometimes raunchy manner, and are distinct because authors of these posts primarily hype up their friends or family members, and rarely themselves. They have a tendency to get a lot of likes – thousands of likes.
How did it all start?
subtle asian dating was created November 2018, just two months after the birth of subtle asian traits. Currently at around 561,948 members, the group encourages others to form healthy relationships, according to its About page.
According to a statement from Cheok Meng Law, one of the group’s admins, the first of these posts came from one of the founders, Hella Chen, who had seen this type of post on other groups.
Since then, the posts have evolved to become more detailed, more boisterous and more curated. Members post the best photos and list their friends’ most impressive traits – some are studying at an Ivy League to become doctors, others have traveled to over 100 countries.
[Related: Subtle Asian Traits]
Law said the admins view the hypes as a viable way to foster meaningful relationships. Its community guidelines require members to follow a structured template and require only the subject’s Instagram handles on the post, all aimed to minimize “clout-chasing” and nudge people to, well, shoot their shot. They’ve even experimented with disabling comments on posts to encourage people to make moves, instead of just tagging their friends.
As the group continues to grow and evolve, the admins remain committed as digital cupids. But do members actually want to participate?
While the admins intended for the hypes to form meaningful relationships, students said the virality and amusing premise often convince people to write them for their own amusement.
First-year pre-global studies student Minh-E Lau saw others post their friends and said she wanted in on the fun.
“It’s hilarious how people tag their friends like ‘You’re up next,’” Lau said. “So I kind of wanted to do that with one of my friends just for fun.”
For others, it’s more than just a laugh. It’s a chance to dip their toes back into the dating pool.
Joyce Wu, a fourth-year biology student, said she agreed to be the subject of her friend’s post because she had recently gotten out of a relationship and said it was time to put herself out there.
Yang said he had just gotten out of a relationship when his friend suggested a hype post.
“This was around the time that I was dumped after my boyfriend left me … and my friend wanted to make me feel better,” he said. “And you know what, why not? Why not just give it a try?”
After their posts were published, responses were varied – some got hundreds of Facebook direct messages, while others gained Instagram followers and even new Pokémon GO friend requests. Unfortunately, most of these interactions failed to amount to anything, either because of distance barriers or because others were just not interested.
Some had unexpected types of success. Yang’s friend from Seattle has visited him at UCLA, and when they’re apart they text or Snapchat each other. “It was a friend success story, kind of,” he said.
Much like dating apps, putting yourself out there can be hit or miss. Whether or not the group really does serve as a good matchmaker remains to be seen, especially when members have different motivations for joining in the first place.
A spectator sport
As great as it can feel to have a friend post nice things, many said they didn’t have many expectations for actual future dates because they didn’t view it as a serious matchmaking profile.
First-year mechanical engineering student Joseph Thian boiled down the group’s issues into a single statement: Some people are just in it for the memes, not to find love.
“I don’t see it as a dating group, I just see it as a page where I go to see something funny,” he said.
For some, the group is ripe with the potential to go viral, and posts are designed to maximize likes and comments. In these cases, the hypes are not targeted at potential partners, but for a general audience.
“It’s kind of turned into a spectator sport, similar to ‘The Bachelor,’ in a way,” Lau said.
Once these posts are published, subjects can feel emotionally distanced from other members. It’s like if you were put up on a pedestal for others to look at; suddenly people are looking at you, but not really looking at you.
“An analogy would be: You can overhear two friends talking about you but you don’t know those two people, so it’s like you … can’t really say anything to them, because you don’t know them, but they’re still talking about you,” Yang said.
By reducing someone into a list of pros and cons, these posts fail to represent how complex human beings really are. The flood of DMs from strangers might offer immediate validation but it can also result in quick-to-dismiss evaluations that may not happen in real life.
“On dating apps, we’re so used to having so many options that we are quick to give up on a single person,” Wu said. “But in real life when you met someone you’ve already established a connection (with), like as friends – them not liking sushi is not going to deter you from wanting to get to know them.”
Since these interactions take place on social media, they are subject to the very same problems the platforms perpetuate – namely, our craving for instant gratification. According to an article from Harvard University, dopamine is released when people are shown positive social stimuli, and social media can provide that.
With so many hype posts on the page, subtle asian dating is ripe for social stimuli, feeding into this mass of never-ending hype posts that offer immediate validation.
“Personally, I feel like social media and dating apps, in general, have made dating very fast-paced. … It’s more geared towards instant gratification. … I think subtle asian dating has contributed to that,” Law said.
If it seems like I’m writing about the death of love because of social media, fear not: It’s not all bad.
For every failure there can be successes, such as Yang’s new friend. And there are others like him who post about their success stories to celebrate the fact that they met in the most unlikely of places.
In addition, social media has been shown to help introverts in many ways – a study showed that using social media helped introverted students gain more self-confidence when it came to learning with others. The same principle could apply to dating as well.
Communication professor Rick Dale said research has shown that people prefer using online communication because they can consciously edit how their behaviors comes across to others.
“You have more (time) to think about it. As you’re typing it you can change your mind and revise it. You can choose exactly the right emoji for the circumstance,” he said.
This mode of communication may be preferential for some, but it remains to be seen if the online medium is a help or a hindrance when it comes to romantic relationships.
There may be hope for dating in the digital age, but it truly comes down to what people do with the convenience that we now have. Do you keep talking, or do you stop and wait for one of the many other fish in the sea?
Regardless, it’s a bold step to subject yourself to the eyes of over 500,000 strangers, even in a joking context.
Yang said he greatly respects the efforts of those who are really trying and sending messages out into the digital world, and that it’s something he could not have done by himself.
“I just hope for the best for whoever’s trying to shoot their shot, or trying to find love, in subtle asian dating,” he said.