If I might paraphrase from Hamlet: “to wink or not to wink… that is the question.” On the one hand, free online tools like “winks” and “favorites” can certainly help facilitate contact amongst members. But on the other hand, they invite complications that modern singles must then sort out.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to reach out just yet to a few of the hot women I saw online,” says New Yorker Evan, 25. ”So I ‘favorited’ them and figured I’d come back when I was ready. One of these women wrote me a scolding email asking why I’d ‘favorite’ someone with whom I’d had no contact. She said that it creeped her out a bit.”
Well, it seems that you can’t please everyone in the online dating world. Reactions to the myriad ways in which you can contact an online prospect remain mixed, but with a growing number of tools at your disposal to show your interest, it’s easy to flirt with someone and keep right on moving — that is, until you’re ready to invest more time.
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Is virtually “winking” at someone a good idea?
A “wink” is meant to kick off a casual flirtation between two people… and that’s it. Winking is a simple, free way to break the ice and let a fellow online dater know that you liked his or her profile. The obvious implication is that if there’s mutual interest, the recipient might want to wink back (or better yet, email you instead). So why are winks still controversial?
“I love winks,” says New Yorker Rachel, 31. “I like checking my profile to see who’s noticed me. It’s an ego boost, even if not all of them lead to dates.” But others aren’t as fond of getting passive attention. This seems truer for women than men, which makes sense — especially for traditionally-minded ladies, who aren’t always comfortable making the first move.
“Winking is wimpy,” says Washingtonian Sharon, 42. “Online dating is already impersonal, so the least you can do is send me an email expressing interest, intrigue or curiosity.” Virginian Mary, 37, agrees. “Winks are so lame,” she says. “It makes me feel like the guy is spineless. For God’s sake, if you want to contact me, man up and send an email. Winking and writing first is the same thing as pursuing a guy. If I don’t do it in real life, why would I do it online?” Maybe it’s easier for men to accept winks, then. As Washingtonian John, 27, explains it, “if I get a wink, it’s like a woman smiled at me from across the bar. I like the encouragement, and then I’ll follow up if I am interested. It works for me!”
But smart daters know there’s also a potential downside, too. “Winking can make you look lazy or a bit like a ‘digital player,’” says Pennsylvanian Allan, 33. “Some women assume that if you’re winking at them, you must be winking at a hundred others, too, since it’s so easy to do.”
What does “favoriting” someone really imply?
To add someone to your list of “favorites” on Match.com, click “Favorite him/her” on the right side of the person’s profile page. The person you “favorited” will be notified if he or she is a subscriber, and your profile will appear in that person’s “Who’s Favorited Me” list.
It’s a simple action to execute, but according to the men and women I spoke with, the implications of “favoriting” are somewhat complicated, and there’s a wide range of opinions. “It’s not that big a deal,” says John. “If I’m checking out profiles and find a girl I like, I’ll ‘favorite’ her as a sort of bookmark. Then I can go back later and figure out which person to contact. It’s a convenient way to keep track of prospects, and I’m not doing it to be some sort of player.” Adds Sharon: “I don’t mind ‘favoriting.’ At least it indicates that someone has noted that you’re someone he’d like to follow up with later.”
And it’s precisely that expectation that causes some online daters to have mixed emotions about the whole ‘favoriting’ process. “I do feel confused if a guy ‘favorites’ me and I don’t hear from him after a day or two,” says North Carolinian Linda, 33. “Will he email — or not? If I hear nothing, I get upset.”
How to effectively use winks and favorites online
With so many different interpretations of what these dating tools are for, exactly, check out my five tips below designed to help you decide how and when to use them to your best advantage:
1. If you’re an online dating newbie, learn the rules. For beginners, the option to wink at someone must feel like you’ve been given an open shopping bag and free run at the candy store. The minute you post your profile, you’re ready to say to the online dating world, “I’m single and ready to mingle.” Feeling frisky, you decide to wink at everyone you think is cute. After all, it’s so fast and easy. Well, what seemed like a good idea at the time doesn’t always work out in the long run, does it?
No, not when the objects of your potential affection have probably been at this awhile and are weary of the “wink n’ run” types who raise their hopes only to squash them later by not pursuing the romance further via email. (Think of it this way: you wouldn’t run through a bar winking at every pretty girl or hot guy, even if you’d had a few drinks. Don’t do this online, either.)
So, heed this advice: Always think before you wink or “favorite” someone indiscriminately. Be prepared to follow up (whether it’s by emailing the person who winks back at you or deciding to follow up your initial wink with an email introduction) — or skip it altogether.
2. Understand the implications of your actions. It’s understandable why daters would gravitate to tools that are incredibly time-efficient to use. In our busy world, who doesn’t want an easy method for showing interest — and assess others’ level of attraction to you? But make sure you know what your actions could suggest before you set the wheels of romance in motion.
Sure, winking is a simple way to break the ice without putting undue pressure on you or your prospective date. “Favoriting” is a way to bookmark profiles and keep track of whom you’d like to contact later. But some wink recipients might assume you’re lazy or lacking the confidence to email them instead. “Favoriting” a profile might come off as a sneaky, yet subtle way of getting on someone’s radar to see if that will prompt him or her to make the first move — or worse, leave you looking like a digital player.
3. Use your profile to let people know your true intentions. Unsure how others might perceive your winks? Consider writing in your profile text that you’re “wink-friendly” to help manage others’ expectations. Adding a note explaining that you enjoy giving and getting winks conveys that you’re not arbitrarily clicking around the site, and that you fully understand that these gestures can’t replace perpetually valuable efforts at romantic perseverance.
Another option to consider: stating the reasons why you like adding “favorites.” All online daters have different methods of browsing and keeping track of their matches, and “favoriting” is just another tool in that arsenal. It’s best to acknowledge this in a lighthearted way. For example: Explain that sometimes you’re busy with work or browsing while traveling, and it’s not a good time to craft a personal email introduction. Write something like, “I use the ‘favorite’ tool when I’d genuinely like to contact someone once I have time to do it right.” That way, you won’t puzzle your prospects or give off the perception that you’re a lazy player waiting for someone else to do the work of reaching out in a meaningful way.
Similarly, you can also note what you don’t like. For example, I’m seeing more profiles from daters who mention — in a nice way — that they don’t really care for winks. At least you can rest easier knowing your prospects have been forewarned!
4. Don’t be too quick to judge others who use these tools. Yes, it’s true that winks and favorites aren’t the most direct contact options available to you... but keep in mind that online dating is a numbers game. These tools can help you quickly reach out to a wider variety of matches to test the waters and indicate you’re interested without setting yourself up for a big letdown if there’s no mutual attraction.
So, give your prospects the benefit of the doubt. Before you condemn someone for sending a wink or adding you as a favorite, consider allowing for extenuating circumstances. After all, the man who winked at you might be a naive newbie or shy good guy who’s testing the waters before diving in; the woman who “favorited” you could believe that it’s important to maintain dating traditions and let the man initiate direct contact. Be flattered! Getting “favorited” indicates that a prospect saw you and thought enough of your profile to bookmark you for following up with later down the road.
“I don’t think it matters how you reach out, just as long as you do reach out,” says New Yorker Rachel, 32. “Three years ago a guy winked at me and initially, I thought: What’s his problem? I’m not worth even a brief personal note? I thought about it for a couple of days and decided to wink back at him. Next thing you know, he emailed me! We had dinner that weekend, and we ended up married two years later. You just never know.” So don’t automatically knock winks, favorites, emails, or IMs — whatever gets the ball rolling helps you both win the game.
5. When in doubt, follow the golden rule. It’s true that people have different communication preferences, and there’s no crime against winking or “favoriting” online. Of course, traditional roles can complicate things. Traditional women might feel empowered to wink at someone, but dislike getting winked at, for whatever reason. What matters most is what works for you and those you want to pursue. In other words, “Wink unto others as you’d have others wink unto you.” By the same token, you should add someone to your favorites list only if you’d be pleased to discover yourself being “favorited” by others, too.
Bottom line: Winking and “favoriting” can be effective, time-saving tools — just remember that nothing takes the place of honest-to-goodness interest and perseverance for finding The One.
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit hiswebsite, follow him onTwitter, oremail him.