what does poke mean on facebook

Illustration by Jason Reed

What does a Facebook ‘poke’ really mean?

Poking people is so 2007.

Apr 9, 2021, 1:51 pm*

Tech

 

Kristen Hubby

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.

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And in 2021, nobody is doing it.

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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.

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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A Poke is arguably an outdated flirting method.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.

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How do you Poke someone?

  • First, choose your poking victim. Go to your pokes page: facebook.com/pokes
  • You’ll see a list of suggested friends to poke and you can search for people to poke as well.
  • From there, smash that blue “Poke” button.
  • Once poked, that action will show up in their notifications.
Photo of the Facebook Poke search bar.
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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.

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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.

Should you bother poking in 2021?

Facebook Pokes have been marginalized from the site and seem to exist only as an homage for the early days of the social network. As a funny and weird signal between campus classmates, it spurned engagement in 2004. But the poke has long outlived its purpose. And now Facebook serves 2 billion people around the world: It has a wide range of random interpretations. Moreover, it can come off as passive-aggressive in the United States… or downright weird. Who is poking someone in this day and age?

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But at the end of the day, the Facebook poke is all about opening a door to further human interaction. If you’re close friends with someone, it can be a nostalgic, winking action that reminds them you’ve both been on this website for 10-plus years. However, if you want to flirt or reconnect with, say, an attractive person from an old social circle, a brief note on Messenger or nice public comment on a news article they shared is a more tactful approach.

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

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*First Published: Jul 29, 2017, 5:00 am