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What is the Purpose of a Facebook Poke?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Facebook poke is a feature on the Facebook homepage, and it has a number of potential meanings. An option located on the right side of the page allows people to “poke” someone else with the click of a mouse or tap of a touch screen. When a user opts to poke someone, the person chosen receives a message that they’ve been poked and by who. There is also an option with any new poke to reciprocate. For many, this is just a means of saying hello, but other meanings have been suggested that are worth exploration.

Facebook informational pages explain the poke as a way to say hello or to get the attention of someone. It can also be a reciprocal hello, especially when a person has been poked and chooses to respond. Certainly, this action is quicker than writing on someone’s wall, and depending on privacy settings, it may be possible to poke people who aren’t presently friends. Often, this feature is restricted to people in a friends network, but privacy settings are subject to rapid changes on this social platform.

Some alternate meanings to the Facebook poke have been suggested. People might principally use this feature to determine the level of someone else’s sexual interest, for example, and a reciprocal poke could lead to a real or virtual meeting with another similarly minded person. Of course, not everyone uses this, and people should be fairly certain that both people are likely to understand any sexual connotations of a poke before proceeding to a chat and flooring a friend with far too much private information.

Another explanation is that a poke is meant to be mildly, moderately or greatly mischievous. When people have huge friend networks, responding to pokes can get annoying, and it’s that much more content that may get in the way of reading other’s posts. Fortunately, people don’t have to respond in any way, but someone who keeps repeatedly sending pokes might have to be unfriended or hidden.

A Facebook poke can also be used in a friend network to play a version of tag. People poke each other until the poke comes back to the initiator of a game. Again, different levels of participation and interest on the network may cause the game to come to a quick stop if one person doesn’t respond.

Ultimately, the poke is typically what people make of it: mostly a hello, and occasionally more significant. It's best if people not use this option on everyone they know because it may seem annoying, and it’s usually perfectly okay to ignore a poke because it’s meant to be a very brief form of communication. In most cases, it’s about the equivalent to a tap on the shoulder.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon967764 — On Aug 29, 2014

What about the notifications that you've been poked 'x' times in a row?

By anon338090 — On Jun 10, 2013

There have been accounts of me and my friends to poke someone who they have an interest in. It's like a way to see if they are interested without striking up a conversation right away, or if they're too shy to walk up and say hi. If they poke back and it goes on for a bit then you start to feel more comfortable to start a chat.

By DylanB — On Feb 24, 2013

Kids and teenagers are more likely to use the poke as something to annoy their friends or enemies than adults. My daughter is eleven, and she has had to hide several of her friends on the site because of their incessant poking.

By wavy58 — On Feb 23, 2013

@feruze – I think it makes sense to poke people who haven't responded to your messages. It's not a rude thing to do, and it would be more likely to get their attention than a notification of a message or a wall post.

I think it is more noticeable because when you log onto the site, you can clearly see a sentence stating who poked you on the right side of the screen. When you have to check your notifications to see a wall post or a message, it can easily go unnoticed.

By healthy4life — On Feb 23, 2013

I think that most of my friends on Facebook are afraid to use the poke. They probably have heard that it could be misconstrued, so they avoid it. The only person who ever pokes me on there is my husband, and I couldn't take offense to that!

By StarJo — On Feb 22, 2013

I always giggle a little when one of my friends pokes me on Facebook. It just tickles me when I see the notification pop up that says, “So-and-so poked you.” It's even funnier that it gives me the option to poke back!

I envision it as a little tickle fight. If someone poked me in the stomach in person, I would probably giggle, so it evokes that response from me online, as well.

By ysmina — On Feb 15, 2013

@feruze-- Something else to keep in mind is that facebook is now open to many countries. In some languages, "poke" doesn't have an innocent meaning at all.

For example, in Turkish, a poke has a very sexual connotation. I've heard that people have started using poke on Turkish facebook to meet strangers and find sexual partners. It's creepy.

By bear78 — On Feb 15, 2013

Woah. I send pokes on facebook all the time but I had no idea that it could have a sexual suggestion. I poke someone if I haven't heard from them in a long time or if I sent them a message and they didn't respond. I think it's very innocent. It's just a way to get their attention and say hi.

By burcidi — On Feb 14, 2013

I've been a member of this social networking platform since it's founding, and I still haven't figured out the purpose of a poke.

I occasionally get pokes from acquaintances but I never respond because it's just silly. If someone wants to communicate with me, it's not that hard to send a message or write on my wall.

I would like to call out to all the "pokers" out there. Please don't do it! I hope eventually, facebook will remove this option altogether.

By abiane — On Oct 24, 2010

@babyksay You can always send them a message. Or if their profile is not set on a private setting you could look through their pictures in order to better determine if they are the person you have been looking for or not. A lot of people like to put up photos of their kids or pets or something crazy that you don't even know what it is which really annoys me, but it is their page so what are you going to do?

By bbpuff — On Oct 24, 2010

@babyksay - I don't think you can pole people you're not friends with. However, you CAN send them a message and ask them if they are Mr. or Ms. So and So. It might seem a little silly, but people usually don't have an issue with answering that kind of question because they know what it's like to be looking for some one.

By babyksay — On Oct 24, 2010

@doppler - Do you know if you can poke people that you aren't friends with yet? I see people I think are old buddies from school and stuff all the time, but a lot of times they have a picture that's of their kids or something wacky on their profile so I'm never sure that it's really them.

By doppler — On Oct 24, 2010

My friend and I use the facebook poke thing all the time. I actually find it a little annoying. There isn't a giant sign or notification that says you've been poked - it's just a little link thing so it really isn't that annoying or anything for most people. We just go back and forth literally every time we are on facebook.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia...
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