For those who are new to online dating, most online dating services, such as or Yahoo! Personals, offer a quick and easy way of contacting people without writing anything. This action has different names at different sites: when I was dating it was called a “Wink” at and an “Icebreaker” at Yahoo! personals. For the discussion here, I’ll refer to them as winks.

I always wondered why winks exist. They are normally free (this will vary by the site) so they do provide a way for a non-paying member to alert a paying member they are interested but then what? This scenario normally falls apart: a non-payer winks at someone, gets an email in response but then can’t communicate any further. To me, this makes winks look more like a marketing ploy to get additional sign-ups. Personally, I always prefered to write an email over a wink. The “I like your profile” message that a wink offers is implied when I write an email, so why bother? I never found a good reason to wink at a girl. Having thought about this extensively I do believe winks serve one good purpose: they allow the internet to mimic real life. Take the following as an example:

A young woman sitting at a bar notices a man she finds attractive. While taking a drink, she looks his way. If he’s particularly slow, she will give him a small smile. This “invitation” gives the man some confidence to walk over, introduce himself, offer to buy a drink and have a conversation with her.

This interplay simply cannot exist on the internet. I think, perhaps, winks are an attempt to create it. So perhaps the good reason for winks existence is for a girl to encourage a guy to start a conversation. Now, we can talk political correctness and women’s rights and equality until we’re blue in the face but how likely is the following:

A man sitting at a bar notices a woman he finds attractive. He catches her eye and gives a small smile. The woman approaches the man, introduces herself and offers to buy him a drink.

Believable? Happening every night at bars all across the world? Sure, it can happen but that doesn’t make it likely! If this seems so strange in the “real world”, why should a guy be encouraged act in this way electronically? So guys: please don’t wink. Man up and talk to the girl. Send some real communication. Regardless of how many bras she burned last week, a girl is going to expect you to drive the process. Yes, there are exceptions but an agressive girl is going to email you if she likes you and will find winks unattractive so even the exception doesn’t allow for winking. Smiling seductively over your Rum-and-Coke isn’t going to work any better on the internet than it would in the real world. Let’s leave the winking to the ladies.

Photo by ChelseaGirl

Responding to Winks
Now, a little on responding to winks. If you get a wink, don’t bring it up when you contact the lady. The “I couldn’t help noticing you noticing me” may work at the bar if she’s had enough to drink but best to assume you’ll be dealing with someone who is sober. Also, while it is reasonable to wonder if you get a wink because the other person is not paying, don’t try to account for this possibility in your response. In other words, don’t include some line like, “Just in case you don’t pay here’s my contact information”. I did this early on and it never worked. I now believe that this came off as a little desperate (which is loosely translated into “stalker”). If she really likes you, she’ll shell out the $15 to continue the conversation and if not she was wasting your time in the first place…and do you really want to play that game?

So guys treat wink responses as if you are initiating the conversation. When a girl smiles at a guy at the bar, he will convince himself that he is taking some great risk approaching her. In reality, she has already decided how successful their conversation will be before he gets within ten feet of her. So take a cue from the bar guy and make gross assumptions regarding your near-heroic levels of risk and confidence by pretending you’re making the decisions. Any other response is breaking thousands of years of tradition.

Who Has Viewed You
Many services allow you to see who has been looking at your profile and vica versa. Last time I was dating online, this could also be turned off so others didn’t know you viewed them (offering some protection to those ladies who are already getting more email than they would like). Contacting those who looked at your profile is absolutely encouraged. If you can tell if someone has been looking at your profile repeatedly, this is as close to a wink as you’re going to get so again, I would encourage making contact. On a personal note, I found that contacting those who were viewing my profile, even repeatedly, wasn’t any more successful than contacting those who had never viewed my profile. Your results will vary (I would hope!).

One thing I liked about the “Who’s Viewed” feature was that I would often know who I wanted to contact next but because of a busy dating schedule, wouldn’t contact them for a few weeks. I liked the idea that they could see that I was viewing their profile and then a semi-extended time later contacting them. Remember guys: some of your competition are psychotic and after a few bad dates many ladies will be on the lookout for any clues for said nuttiness. The fact that I didn’t contact someone for a week or so after viewing them, in my mind, gave me an appearance of low-desperation and thus a lower potential-stalker factor. Clearly, I am an over-thinker but I still stick by this idea.

Finally, as with winking, don’t bring up the fact that you saw they were viewing your profile if you decide to contact them.