Photo credit: HOANG VIET GIANG HUONG

IMPACT 0499: MENTAL WELL-BEING IN ONLINE DATING

Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.

Hoang Viet Giang Huong, 19, is a second-year IB student at St Joseph’s Institution. She has a strong interest in ideating, creative writing, design, and photography, and has been working for social causes in marketing and communication for four years. She finds joy in her position because she gets to understand more about causes and the people they target in the process of researching and creating content. Marketing Communications has also allowed her to study the issue that she is deeply interested in: communication and its role in human interactions and social issues.

Today she shares more about Lync, a project to redefine online dating as an experience that supports mental wellness!

What was your role within your YAC project?

Project Lync started before I joined the team, with the idea of making online dating less superficial and helping people find deeper connections with each other. As the marketing director of the Lync team, I am responsible for planning the marketing calendar, creating social media content for our growing Instagram page, and reaching out to public partners for our campaigns. We also work together on pitching, business development and researching on our chosen social issue.

What motivated you to join YAC?

I actually joined a YAC team under “Jobs and Future of Work”, looking to bridge the intergenerational gap between senior citizens and youth. I found the YAC experience eye-opening, as it introduced me to social entrepreneurship, and I encountered a lot of great ideas and people. In the past one year, I have become more interested in mental health and well-being. Seeing the struggles that my friends and I go through in our academics and in life, I joined YAC to see what help can be done in this area.

Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?

Our YAC Project, Lync, has gone through an exciting journey. Joining YAC as a pre-existing project, we definitely had the advantage in ideation and prototyping of the solution. However, it must always “start with the problem”, right from the first workshops on understanding problems, we had to think about the problem much more in-depth, and re-evaluate how our ideas solved parts of the issue. It was a kind of “reverse design thinking” process, but it helped us understand much better the issue of mental well-being in dating, which shaped the rest of our journey.

What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?

Joining Lync when it just started gaining traction publicly, one of our biggest questions was how to find a brand voice and image for Lync that distinguished it from other dating-related initiatives. We had a lot of content and activity ideas for Lync, so it was difficult to find a common direction and stay focused on it.

In the end, we decided to make Lync a “friendly, introspective friend that you can turn to for relationship advice”. This has been maintained throughout the content shared on our Instagram account, focusing on helping people better understand who they are in a relationship, as well as meaningful date ideas.

Another challenge was aligning our social and business mission, which, I believe, is a common challenge for young social enterprises. How do we make a good impact while still being able to financially sustain the business in the long run? We learnt that good impact comes from a thorough understanding of the community we are trying to help, and throughout YAC, we have been having meaningful conversations with target users, mentors and other teams.

One of the features most “debated” over was the hiding of users’ real photos within the first week of chatting, in order to reduce the focus on appearance, but at the same time, we understood it could make it harder to form trust between two parties. In the end, we still decided to keep the feature (with further testing of course), because we have faith that it takes a bold leap to change users’ behaviour when it comes to basing an interest on looks.

Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?

Our project was initiated as the online dating scene seemed “saturated” with many apps and services, as well as a surge in the number of users due to COVID-19 social isolation. However, we also noticed the rise of users negatively affected in terms of emotions and personal security, and realised a big gap in the market in ensuring the users’ psychological health while online-date. This is the key impact we desire to make, and so far this has been well-reflected through the beta-test user feedback when we tested our algorithm and features with a closed group.

84.2 per cent of our users were willing to answer more introspective questions to increase accuracy of their matches, showing a positive impact on directing the attention to understanding oneself and forming relationships based on deeper, genuine connections. 69.2 per cent felt comfortable to share their photos and personal information with their matches after one week of chatting, which proves the effectiveness of the experience on making users feel secure and building trust and consent.

Besides, we have also made an impact in spreading awareness to the wider community about the importance of mindfulness and sincerity in dating, via our Instagram content.

Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?

The first important thing I have learnt is about identifying, and more importantly, justifying a problem. An important meaningful question I’ve learnt is: “What is a problem that people are trying to solve manually, but the demand for a solution is so high that you need to develop a technology to systematically solve it?” This highlights the fact that despite an excess of technologies in today’s world, not all of them play a significant role in solving social problems. Thus, we have been mindful of making our product not just an advanced but much-needed one.

Through YAC, I have also learnt a lot more about partnerships. At the early stage, it was hard to find partners that were willing to sponsor our activities, so our giveaways were out-of-pocket at first. Then, our mentors suggest partnering with social enterprise F&Bs, which we had not considered. It taught me the importance of synergies in the social enterprise world—how we can make full use of our solution and network to make an impact on various groups.

Lastly, I learnt about effective pitching, and we received very helpful feedback during the workshop and consultation. I realised that as much as the idea you have is important, how you present it convincingly is even more crucial in gaining support. I still remember spending a whole day before the pitch practising and perfecting the script, editing word by word, and although it was tedious, all of us were satisfied with our final pitch since it was able to capture months of hard work into a five-minute presentation. I still remember the feeling when we finished the Q&A, we went backstage and hugged each other in joy. That is the moment that will keep all of us going.

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