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.