The Pointless Poke Takes on Meaning

Most of us are guilty of “poking” someone at some point since joining Facebook.  After first joining the social network, we’d ask friends, “Did you get my poke?” or say “You haven’t poked me back yet!” There were “poke wars” and winning meant you had to poke the other person back as soon as possible. Now, we forget the tool exists until that unexpected digital jab comes our way.

The Facebook poke is an original feature of the site, back when users needed an Ivy League email address to create an account. Facebook’s FAQ section once explained that the feature served no specific purpose and that users should feel free to interpret it in their own way. However, the once “pointless” poke now takes on several different meanings in the online world.

Creepers Try to Connect

The function has long been associated with the “Facebook Creeper,” a person who tries to get the attention of a certain female. Coed Magazine explains that the “poker” is one of eight types of Facebook creepers. If you receive this poke, “You caught the ‘Guy Who Pokes You’s’ eye and instead of messaging you, writing on your wall, sending you a bumper sticker, commenting on your photos, sending you a gift, or inviting you to add an application, he poked you.”  At least, that’s what it seems.  In these situations, the poke is usually ignored and no further action is taken.

You’re Older Relatives Just Joined Facebook

Along with the growing trend of 40-to-60-year-olds joining Facebook comes a different generation’s discovery of the poke. Older relatives and family friends find the tool hilarious and poke everyone they can think of. These oldies are ecstatic about the idea that they can “nudge” you from hundreds of miles away and might take insult when you aren’t poking back.

You’ve Got a Crush

If you have a Facebook crush, you might reach out and poke them, or they might even reach out and poke you. It’s an easy way to say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about you but I have absolutely nothing to write on your wall.” Or as Urban Dictionary says, “’I like you’ without actually coming out and saying it to their face.”  These are the best kinds of pokes and are often followed up by a message or a wall post.

It Has That Old Facebook Charm

Facebook has undergone extreme changes in the past couple of years, from new lightbox photo albums to the “Like” button to the Places application. Despite these modifications, the ability to poke is the one strange, quirky thing that Mark Zuckerberg has kept on the site.

It seems Zuckerberg is intent on keeping the purposeless tool for creepers, aunts, uncles, crushes, and the like.  The poke is here to stay.

Victoria Solomon I'm a graduate from Simmons College and currently a marketing coordinator at Allen & Gerritsen in Boston. I love hiking, creating websites, finding the best burritos, and tweeting—anything related to social media. You can find me at twitter.com/victsolomon and victoriasolomon.weebly.com.

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