Poke me, poke you back: Facebook social networking context

For those drawn here from blog posts and other social media sites, I recommend updated reading on poking and phatic communication on social network sites from 2011 and 2012: Phatic Communication, or why the little things in social media really matterWWW2012 and Phatic Posts: Even the Small Talk Can Be Big, and Small talk in the Digital Age: Making Sense of Phatic Posts.

How many times you have been poked by a friend, colleague, and affiliate? And what was your reaction? I had to write few lines on this as I am recently (massively) poked on Facebook. It was regular, surprisingly massively poking (not superpoking), not explicitly poked, but – just regular poke with two choices given: to poke back or remove poke.

Perceiving my Facebok space as my friendly social networking interactive playground receiving willingly or not many requests, superwall posts that ended in ‘shrinked’ version of my FB extended profile, I stopped and wondered in the past few days: “what is happening recently with poking?” I’ve been for long time on Facebook, but never had massive poking notifications daily. Why are my pokers, poking me all the time? Regularly..

Many dictionaries as well as Wikipedia Poke define as gesture of action of tapping and/or softly jabbing another person with the tip of your finger or a pointy object. This is usually done to gain this particular person’s attention, and is commonly used as a form of teasing, joking around with, or annoying another person.

And what is Facebook poke?

Facebook as social network defines poke as social utility that connects you with the people around you.
What is the purpose of this form of interaction with your friends on Facebook with two simple actions? If we exclude implementation of poking in higher education in learning and communicating processes , we can consider other implications. Removing the poke could be interpretted by the friend as ignoring the poke, but poking back simply invites your friend to repeat the cycle.

In social networking terms, poke is contextual, and the context of poke is dependent upon the current level of familiarity between the ‘poker’ and the ‘pokee’. I remember last year I was invited to a group “Enough with poking, let’s just have sex “, and ignored request for the membership as I observed then poking as friendly virtual gesture with friends and colleagues , usually denoting verbal phrase: “Hey , what’s up?” , or “Look at me!”, saying” ”Hi”, to someone you already know well or screaming background form: “Hey, I’m here, online!,” or “Hey, I’m busy but just poked you to say I didn’t forget this and that or will be back soon’, followed usually by message/email. And there are pokes that are expressing more than friendly, primarily school behavior with connotation: “I poke you and now you have to poke me back”.

Poking for fun? “I won’t pull your hair/ponytail – but I’m poking you” – elements of (naïve) and light weighted flirtation. Therefore, poke can be flirting. Poke can be “I am shy but won’t to say hi”.

There are numerous possible meanings and interpretations behind the poke and in social networking technologies context poke can be perceived as: 1. showing the {romantic*} interest for the other, 2. High visibility, Low pressure way of getting attention 3. a lightweight interaction.

An interesting range of it’s meaning but we always have to have in mind the social context and the level of intimacy between two communication nodes.


When I expressed annoyance at today’s massive poking, one of my colleagues wrote in his status bar on Facebook that poking is fun and is not giving up, and I truly believe his perceiving of Facebook poking as light and ‘on the run’ social utility.
I’ve asked my friends what poke mean to them, but they didn’t know to explain… they just poke. While I was writing this text, friend of mine, IT engineer, tried to understand concept of poking. He said that poke is subjective, it can lead to misunderstandings unless all parties agree on what a poke is or all parties accept that they can’t know what a poke is. Maybe.

:smile :

Do you poke, and if so, what would you do instead of poking on Facebook, in a real life?


  1. Stephen says:


  2. Harry Janssen says:

    “Poke”. Hahaha. In virtual world – and in this environment we all act – if we use Facebook or whatever virtual program. Definitely we cannot have virtually sexual intercourse !!!!!
    And in this virtual we say “poke” as a friendly way of expression to someone who we like.

  3. Claudia says:

    Do you know how to find out what day I was sent the “poke”?

  4. Mosh says:

    If you are poking an unknown person, the poke is an attention getter, you are saying “Hey! Look at me!!”. It seems you can use this when you dont want to write an actual message, or just to test the waters. If you receive a poke back, it is an indication that you got your foot in the door and should continue the virtual courtship, most likely with an actual message, if you poke again then you are stupid.

    If you are poking friends that you also know IRL, then its just harmless fun, you can go on poke-a-thons and poke someone every time you log in, and they poke you back the same, it is quite silly but hey, at least its not MySpace 🙂

  5. Danica says:

    There goes my explanation, though I’ve mentioned above that segment in the post. Hm, agree, there’s something out there ; )

    @Mosh yes, i still believe that poking is dependent upon the current level of familiarity between two sides.

  6. Michael says:

    Fascinating article. I use pokes in a variety of ways, but usually it’s a way of saying “hey, whats up?”. Kind of a “I haven’t heard from you in a while, I hope you’re doing ok” thing. Though I have poked strangers to get attention. No reciprocation yet, though. =)

  7. Rhyo says:

    nice one

  8. […] built on earlier work about microposts, especially some from 2008 on one of its manifestations on Facebook concerning the “Poke” function. Further examining the communication dynamics among young adults in academia on social networks […]

  9. […] built on earlier work about microposts, especially some from 2008 on one of its manifestations on Facebook concerning the “Poke” function. Further examining the communication dynamics among young adults in academia on social networks […]

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