Photo: Courtesy of the subjects
If you’re an Asian millennial or zoomer and on Facebook, you’ve probably come across the group Subtle Asian Dating (SAD). You might even be a member of the DIY “dating site.” Your friends are likely part of it too, “auctioning” you off on a date to some 636,000 strangers, or pushing you to “shoot your shot” and ask someone out. Maybe you’re on there to laugh at the posts about unbelievably attractive people, or found it through the larger Subtle Asian Traits group and just want more inside jokes about bubble tea and ABGs (Asian Baby Girls). Whatever it is, you’ve probably also always wondered: Do people actually find love here?
I’ve been on SAD for two years and, to be honest, have never sent anyone a message, despite my friends’ prodding. I often wonder if the group can actually play matchmaker, or if it’s just a space for hilariously witty posts. Wanting answers while bored at home, I reached out to people who actually did shoot their shot, about what happens when the action moves from the group to their DMs.
Kevin Gan, 20
SAD member for 1 year
“It started when I was going through a very ‘single’ period of my life and my friends thought it would be fun to get me back into dating again,” Kevin told VICE about why he joined SAD.
His friends auctioned him off in a post in early 2019, boasting details like his height (It said 6’5”, even if he was actually 6’1″), location, and passion for basketball and eating. It was a pretty typical post for SAD, and yet it still got Kevin 250 reactions and over 15 DMs from different women.
“The girls who messaged me were all very kind,” Kevin said humbly, adding that he too has reached out to some women in the group. Despite his time on SAD, Kevin has never actually been on a date with a girl he’s met on the group.
“I’ve talked to a bunch of girls, but I guess things just don’t work out. But I’ve seen them around at my university and still talk to them. So I’ve made some good friends from SAD,” he said.
Still, he thinks the platform is cool for what it is.
“It’s cool to see how it’s turned into such a well-known page in the Asian community,” he said.
“I honestly think people should shoot their shots more often…Your next shot could land the love of your life.
Harriet Lee, 25 and Jonathan Jung, 24
SAD members for almost 2 years
Both Harriet and Jonathan were auctioned off by their friends in December 2018 and they started talking to each other soon after, in January 2019. They’ve now been dating for over a year but probably would have never even met if not for SAD. She lived in Toronto and he lived in Maryland.
“At first I was so ambivalent about being on SAD, but my friends in Maryland had insisted on me making a post. So I let them,” Jonathan said.
His friends posted a photo of him with his pet squirrel, Chippy, which turned out to be the right move.
“I guess that’s what attracted people because girls started asking about Chippy on my DMs. I did get quite a few DMs on Facebook and Instagram.”
At the time, Harriet’s friends had also auctioned her off but she never really clicked with anyone from the group. Then, they tagged her on the post about Jonathan.
“My friend was joking around saying I should give it a shot. At first, I did it as a joke because he was in the U.S. and I was in Canada, and I thought it wouldn’t happen,” Harriet confessed.
Her opening line was: “Hey I see you have a pet squirrel, which means you like rodents, so what about a girl who looks like a hamster?”
“I saw that he had a pet squirrel, and my friends always tell me I look like a hamster. So I decided to make a joke about it,” Harriet said, laughing.
Six months into dating, Jonathan found a job in Toronto and ended up moving to Canada, closing the curtains to their long-distance relationship. One of their friends shared this on SAD and the post now has over 12,000 reactions.
“When I look back, me responding to Harriet’s DM has changed my life completely. And if I [could] go back and do it again, I would,” Jonathan said. “And it all comes down to shooting your shot. Seize the opportunity.”
“I think recently, people tend to hold back even when they are interested because they consider factors such as distance, and overthink. Honestly, everything ends up working out if it is meant to be,” Harriet said.
“For us, I didn’t think I would date somebody in the U.S., and would end up living in Canada together. But here we are now! People should always give it a try.”
Matthew Onghai, 21
Texas, United States
SAD member for 2 years
Sometimes, being auctioned off on SAD won’t just land you dates, but also a shot at viral fame. That’s what happened to Matt when he and three of his friends posted a video auctioning him off in August.
The video starts with Matt’s silhouette edited in a familiar scene from the popular video game Super Smash Bros, with the caption, “A new foe has appeared! Challenge approaching_._” It then reveals Matt’s face, shows his LinkedIn profile with his summer internship as a software engineer, along with his possible future salary. A student at the University of Texas at Austin (which has one of the highest COVID-19 cases in a U.S. college), the quippy video also joked that Matt has the “COVID-19 antibodies” to keep any girls interested safe.
The post has gotten over 4,800 reactions and 3,200 comments, including one from Canadian actor and future Marvel superhero Simu Liu who said, “This is how you do it.”
The video idea came from Matt’s friends Erica Kim, Steven Le, and Jenny Xu who picked Matt for the post because of his fun personality.
“I actually found a few video auctions on SAD, and I wanted to make one which was similar. But I didn’t want to auction myself, so I thought [of] who I can embarrass, and someone who fits a ‘meme’ personality. I talked to Steven and Jenny, and we chose Matt,” Erica told VICE.
The 40-second video took seven hours to make and Matt had no idea what his friends had planned. They thought it would only get a few hundred reactions and were shocked when it reached the thousands.
Matt said this led to about 100 followers and friend requests on Instagram and Facebook and at least 60 messages in his DMs. He even got requests on LinkedIn. Most of the people who reached out to him weren’t even from Texas, but other states like California and New York, and countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, and China. Jenny, who posted the video on SAD, has gotten more followers too.
“I spent an entire hour responding just to Facebook messages. It’s been a lot of work, maybe more work than my programming internship,” Matt joked.
For him, the biggest takeaway since going viral is that SAD is for everyone. You don’t have to be a supermodel to get auctioned.
Benjamin Chu, 23
Seattle, United States
SAD member for over a year
Some people auctioned off on SAD get so famous, they become memes. Benjamin said that since his friend posted a video “selling” him on the group in January 2019, he’s been recognized at his workplace by interns as the “guy with a funny auction on SAD.”
“When I’m meeting new people, my friends will say something like ‘have you seen Benjamin’s SAD post?’ And they will show the video, and then I will again be introduced as the ‘meme, funny guy’ from SAD,” he told VICE.
The video shows Benjamin refusing his friend Ben Chu’s offer to auction him on SAD and includes photos of him working, eating, drinking, and sleeping. Benjamin said he didn’t actually allow Ben to post the video, but he did it anyway. Now the post has over 19,000 reactions on SAD.
“One day I woke up to thousands of Facebook notifications. I was very confused, and my co-worker messaged me saying he had seen my video,” Benjamin said.
“I had roughly 40 to 50 girls from the U.S. and other countries who had texted me, saying they saw my auction video and wanted to get to know me.”
Although Benjamin talked to some of the girls, he never met up with anyone through SAD.
His friends still comment on the post, so it reappears on the group’s feed, but Benjamin doesn’t need the boost anymore. He actually met a girl at work, and they’ve been dating for almost a year.
Although Benjamin didn’t find a significant other through SAD, he is still happy that his friend made the video. The post on SAD has actually helped him form relationships, albeit platonic ones.
“[T]he post has become a talking point for me. It breaks the ice, and the post has made it easier for me to make friends,” he said.
“If you are confident in yourself, I say you make a post! It doesn’t hurt.”
Find Miran on Instagram.