What does a Facebook ‘poke’ really mean?

Illustration by Jason Reed

Poking people is so 2007.

So, you got “poked” by someone on Facebook—now what? A Facebook poke is a feature on the social media platform that lets users send a single virtual notification to a friend. No more, no less. Despite the feature’s name, the purpose of a poke has never been entirely clear. While poking was all the rage in 2007, it’s worth noting that its popularity has significantly declined on Facebook over the past few years. In 2011, the feature officially went into hiding on the site as part of a series of functionality updates.

In the younger days of Facebook, a poke was a cute and timid (though ineffective) way to virtually flirt or just say hello. Today, pokes still exist but it’s hardly straightforward: Receiving a casual poke from your grandmother and your crush in the same day can leave you with bizarre mixed messages.

Still confused as to why someone would poke you on Facebook, or what it could mean? Here are all your Facebook poke questions, answered.

What does Poke mean on Facebook?

Essentially, a poke is the same as a like, with a much more ambiguous purpose.

According to Urban Dictionary, a poke “allows users to say ‘hello’ to or show interest in a friend without having to go through the tedious process of crafting coherent sentences.” Basically, a Poke means someone is trying to get your attention, flood your notifications just for fun, or find an excuse to flirt.

An early Facebook FAQ page read, “When we created the poke, we thought it would be cool to have a feature without any specific purpose. People interpret the poke in many different ways, and we encourage you to come up with your own meanings.”

Whether or not you find a poke sweet, unimpressive, or creepy is entirely up to you. Although if you’ve frequented Facebook a lot in the past year, sometimes it’s nice to have a wordless interaction void of any rants or political commentary.

what does poke mean on facebook Screengrab via Facebook

A Poke is arguably an outdated flirting method. Sliding into DMs, or direct messages, is the new way to get someone’s attention on social media.

READ MORE:

How do you Poke someone?

First, choose your poking victim. Go to their profile. If you’re being considerate, decide if the person you are about to poke knows what message you are trying to get across.

what does poke mean on facebook Screengrab via Facebook

Click the “…” button next to the Message button. The drop-down menu will give you several options. Select Poke. Your poking recipient will then receive a notification.

What is a poke war?

A poke war is exactly what it sounds like: A constant exchange of pokes back and forth between two users. Poke wars serve no purpose and always end when one person gives up and decides to stop poking back. There’s no real end game if you choose to start a poke war, unless you plan to be relentless enough to out-poke your opponent.

READ MORE:

How to reject a poke

If you receive a poke from someone you don’t want to poke back, you have the option to just ignore it. Facebook lets you delete Pokes by clicking the gray “X” so you won’t have to see the notification. If the notifications continue, blocking the sender is always an option, especially if you aren’t friends with them.

what does poke mean on facebook Screengrab via Facebook

Facebook doesn’t allow users send multiple pokes to someone they’ve already tried to poke until the recipient replies or pokes back. Thankfully, this means you can’t be harassed by another user or have your notifications blown up by 20 pokes from the same person.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

Kristen Hubby

Kristen Hubby

Kristen Hubby is a tech and lifestyle reporter. Her writing focuses on sex, pop culture, streaming entertainment, and social media, with an emphasis on major platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Spotify. Her work has also appeared in Austin Monthly and the Austin American-Statesman, where she covered local news and the dining scene in Austin, Texas.