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A Wink and a Smile

Winking is a tricky gesture. If done incorrectly, you run the risk of looking creepy. Or like you have something in your eye. I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty weird winks, and let me tell you, it was uncomfortable. (For the record I have tried to be sly and wink at someone. I managed to look like I was blinking. Embarrassing.) However, there are times when I’ve had a guy I was interested in wink at me, and it set my heart aflutter. To me, the signal let me know I was on his mind. Or I was in on a private joke between us. Yes, a wink when done in the correct context can be very nice.

Suffice it to say, Internet winks aren’t the same as real-life winks.

In the course of my few weeks at, I’ve been the recipient of a few winks. At first, it took me a bit to figure out what they were and what they meant. Essentially a wink is something you can send to someone on The wink has a literal smiley face wink and a scripted message, letting you know that the “winker” found your profile appealing and would like to start a conversation with you.

I understand that randomly emailing a person on a website because you found her profile appealing can be a bit daunting. Starting a conversation with anyone, whether on the Internet or in person, always has an element of risk to it. While I’m not a fan of the wink, I get how it could be helpful for people who are unsure about how to start chatting with another person. I can see the benefit of being able to push a button and wait for a response.

However, I was curious about the winks and the guys who sent them. So I conducted a brief experiment that was in no way scientific. To half of the winks I received, I sent back the scripted response. To the others, I wrote a quick note, thanking them for the wink and mentioning something I had found appealing in their profile.

I found that those I had sent a more personalized response to were inclined to write me back.  And while some of those conversations eventually tapered off, I thought the results were interesting. It also reminded me that people feel valued when you make the effort to be encouraging. You risk very little when you offer someone a compliment. This little experiment also reminded me to do this in my offline circles. Effort and kind words make an impression on people. I forget this way too often.

If you’ve tried online dating, what do you think about winks or other scripted messages that are conversation starters? What are creative ways you’ve attempted to start talking with people? (And does anyone want to chat about the excessive use of smiley faces in messages? I’m willing to hear pros and cons on this subject.)

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