Hoping to spark romantic connections through humor, Boston College alum Melissa Mullen designed the interactive dating app Smile to match users based on a shared sense of humor.
“Smile is on a mission to combat the superficiality pervading the online dating industry today, using artificial intelligence and humor to create meaningful connections that last,” said Mullen, founder and CEO of Smile and BC ’18.
Mullen, who majored in physics at BC, said she wanted to produce an online dating platform with humor as the deciding factor in matching couples. This idea, she said, evolved from her personal dating experience.
“I’m an active user of dating apps, and I’ve been on a lot of dates,” she said. “But I’ve actually never been on a second date with someone that I met on a dating app.”
Mullen said she realized her most successful dates, however, were with men who could make her laugh.
“I started doing some research and realized this phenomenon is backed by science — that there is actually a strong correlation between a shared sense of humor and long, happy, healthy relationships,” she said.
From there, Mullen said she quit her job as a software engineer to work on Smile full time. According to Mullen, creating the platform took about a year, but she said she was thrilled when her idea came to fruition.
“Honestly, I’ve never been happier,” she said. “I’m all in on this project. I hop out of bed every morning with a purpose — It’s amazing.”
Mullen has been working with a small team of experts to create the app, she said.
Jeffrey Hall, a communication professor at the University of Kansas who studies humor and love, said he works with Mullen’s team as an academic consultant.
“I’ve researched flirting for more than ten years and humor in long-term relationships for about the same time,” Hall said. “I published a major comprehensive study of humor in long-term relationships a few years ago that summarized all of the research done by that point.”
Hall said this collaboration with Smile is the perfect opportunity to implement his work in a practical way.
“This dating app is an excellent opportunity to apply academic knowledge to the real world, and I couldn’t be happier to have this chance to be a part of it,” he said.
Focusing on getting to know the user’s sense of humor, Smile works differently from other dating apps. Mullen also said the app is geared toward Gen Z and millennials looking for a committed relationship.
“Smile doesn’t feel like work the way other dating apps do because the core experience is rating funny content,” Mullen said. “We’re moving away from the boring swipe-based model, and towards an entertainment-based model—think TikTok meets Hinge.”
According to Mullen, users get initial matches right away based on a short questionnaire. Smile is unique, she said, because of the limited number of matches each user receives.
“[Smile uses] a model that does not promote superficial decision making,” she said. “On Smile, you can only talk to three matches at a time. You need to unmatch someone in order to get a new one.”
Laughter and love go together, Mullen said, and she sees Smile as an engaging and authentic way to find “the one.”
“I really believe that the online dating industry is in desperate need of an anti-superficiality movement and that’s exactly what we stand for at Smile,” Mullen said.
Featured Image Courtesy of Melissa Mullen