Facebook Poke: Social Impact from a Feature with no Purpose

Has someone poked you? What a colleague? Yes, I too know that awkward silence near the coffee machine the next day.

When my friend Kit Seeborg first joined Facebook, she emailed me and text messages me asking me about what is the “poke feature” for in Facebook. I explained it was first a way for people to flirt, and even have an awkward one night stand at Brown University and now it’s a gesture, to get someone’s attention. In fact there’s 172 groups (with chapters for major cities) within Facebook entitled “Enough with the Poking let’s just have sex“, go figure. Don’t ask me how this applies to a corporate web strategy.

Facebook has an official FAQ for the Poke Feature, “A poke is a way to interact with your friends on Facebook. 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.

If you ‘remove’ a poke from your profile, Facebook let’s us know what happens: “Once a poke is hidden, it’s gone forever. The memories, however, will last a lifetime. Oh, and hiding a poke allows the other person to poke you again, which is always a good thing.” Still not sure what Poke is for? You’re not alone.

Clueless? maybe it’s a generational thing, I can help, have you used my Crises Management Template: Child Relations for Social Networks (Facebook)? It’s 1st in my Child Relations Initiative programs for web strategists.

On previous blog posts, I’ve asked people to add me as their friend, and I promise to add them back, as long as they don’t poke or bite me, well, it didn’t work.

Here’s a list of the offenders that have poked me, let the public humiliation begin:

You were poked by
Giovanni Rodriguez.

You were poked by
Tinu Abayomi-Paul.

You were poked by
Edward Vielmetti.

You were poked by
Kris Krüg.

You were poked by
Cecilia Kim.

You were poked by
Allan J. Cox.

You were poked by
Jennifer Jones.

You were poked by
Daniel Johnson Jr.

You were poked by
Robert Scoble.

You were poked by
Glory Wong.

You were poked by
Dave McClure.

You were poked by
Darold Massaro.

You were poked by
Anita Wong.

You were poked by
Eric At Arcscale.

You were poked by
Kit Seeborg.

You were poked by
Shirley O

So, how should I punish them?

(In case you can’t tell, I’m attempting to be humorous, if not satirical of the whole poking thing, all of those folks listed above are friends, and one is even my wife! )

  • http://chrishambly.com Chris Hambly

    I’m wondering why you personally dislike “the poke”, the interaction, the wink, the nod, the wave…

    Why does it upset you, isn’t it interaction and flattering?

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    It makes me feel dirty?

    or

    Fun is not allowed, Facebook is for business.

    ;)

  • http://vielmetti.typepad.com Edward Vielmetti

    You are missing something here.

    By poking someone, you put your name on their screen. This means they can interact with you on Facebook by clicking on your name instead of you having to do a search.

    On mobile Facebook, recent pokes are prominently displayed; on the web based Facebook, it’s not the same list and looks like oldest first.

    The mobile Facebook use case is actually the best one. Someone pokes you; you’re interested in talking to them; you click to their profile; you click on their phone number; your phone dials; you call them.

    A poke temporarily makes your profile visible to someone who could not otherwise see it. In a sense you are poking a hole through the default Facebook privacy screen. The second use case is I poke you, you poke me, we read each others profiles, we friend each other (or send email if we are old, or write on each others blogs if we are not quite so old but still too old).

  • http://www.kwandom.com Kwandom

    Q: How should you punish them?

    A: You can always add SuperPoke and throw a sheep at them.

  • http://itsnotalecture.blogspot.com David Wescott

    send them an impersonal email asking them to write about some irrelevant product on their blog.

    Make sure to include some spelling errors.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Sadly, my attempt at sarcasm and humor has failed. That Masters Degree at Clown College was bunk.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Kwandom

    What beats SuperPoke? This is like the cold war or something.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Oh dear, my attempts are futile, “Chris Hambly poked you on Facebook…”

  • http://www.kwandom.com Kwandom

    Could be a generational thing. Going to have to read your Child Relations for Social Networks template. The only application I find myself actively using is the scrabble game app. Maybe I’m just old school, but I just don’t get these pokes and bites from zombies.

    **Kwandom has nudged Jeremiah**

  • http://www.unjournalism.com Mike Keliher

    I don’t know about some of these other people, but Scoble’s married. Hell, he’s having a kid right now! :)

    This whole rant, though, smacks of a misunderstanding (or at least forgetting) the purpose of Facebook: Just because a person *can* use it for work-type stuff doesn’t mean it’s *built* for it. Facebook was, is and likely always will be for college kids. It’s tough to post an event that’s not a party, and it’s tough to not get poked by random people.

  • http://humanvoice.wordpress.com/ Tom O’Brien

    How to punish the guilty? Public Humiliation – publish their names . . .

    TO’B

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    **Jeremiah has elbowed Kwandom**

  • http://500hats.typepad.com dave mcclure

    comedy aside, it is sort of odd how my perception of ‘poke’ has changed over the past year or so…

    i used to think it was kind of a weird or subtly flirty feature… but now it’s kind of just like a ‘hey what up’ thing. a year ago i would have thought it strange to ‘poke’ another guy, and kind of creepy to ‘poke’ a woman without getting the other meaning.

    now, i don’t think anything of bopping down a friends list and poking 5-10 people at a time, men or women. it’s strange how my awareness / comfort of the feature has changed over time.

    ** Dave pokes Jeremiah & winks knowingly, in a very uncomfortable way **

  • http://sharedinsights.com Aaron Strout

    How about we all “hug” on Facebook instead?

  • http://500hats.typepad.com dave mcclure

    btw, the last one on your list there doesn’t seem so bad ;)

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    @Dave That’s what YOU think.

  • http://www.nowisgone.com/blog Geoff Livingston

    Jeremiah. I just poked you. LOL!!!!

  • http://communitycommunity.blogspot.com Sanjay

    My friend you have just brought this upon yourself. Don’t you all agree that Jeremiah for some reason liked being poked! If not who will add some thing like “don’t poke me” on their welcome note. If you haven’t noticed J…saying no online is similar to not liking cats. Harder you push them harder they comeback. BTW I don’t think Facebook is for business…Linkedin is. That’s why when you go there it feels like the boring corporate board room.
    Remember all of us are immigrants to the digital age the citizens are the ones born after the 80′s.
    So I feel the few of us who are on the ball are still physiologically under 25! (I am still 18 in those terms) Which is the reason we have such a passion for this online community. If we didn’t do you think our piers who all respected business people will bother to poke each other!!:)

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Sanjay…here’s some reverse reverse psychology for you. I don’t like not being poked.

    :)

  • http://dbillian.typepad.com Damon Billian

    I take any poke I can get;-)But I am not one that can be used of employing discriminating tastes:)

    Congrats on the move,BTW.

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  • http://conniebensen.com/ Connie Bensen

    There is a blogger who is an incessant poker… but he’s located near my soon to be home office… so I figure I’ll find a way to get him back. ;) It’s someone I met thru Tinu & we’ve pondered how to deal with this poke-man! :)

    Jeremiah, I think you just opened yourself up to a whole lot more poking (I would have NEVER considered doing so, but now it’s tempting). I was just looking & I see the list of birthdays is just under the poke notifications – which is a good proximity.

  • http://rosevibe.me.uk/blog Vics

    PMSL sorry I got as far as comment #5 and completely forgot what I was going to say *grin* I guess I’ll just have to head over to facebook and poke you instead – getting poked by a stranger can’t be that bad surely..? I’ll be gentle..

  • http://communitycommunity.blogspot.com Sanjay

    Connie I agree with you. I don’t think even facebook has had so many people chatting about the poke :-)

  • http://conniebensen.com/ Connie Bensen

    Sanjay,
    That’s Jeremiah’s magic! He can turn any topic into a great conversation – even a fun one :)

    My suggestion is that the Poke feature add the option to send a statement with the poke. I’d like to send a snappy comment – and it would give it more context. (if we need this :P but we probably do!)

  • http://runningwithmyeyesclosed.blogspot.com/ JIll Golick

    When I read that you didn’t want to be poked, I always took it as an invitation to be poked; almost a flirt, a coy request for interaction — in fact almost a poke. I certainly never for a moment thought you really meant it.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Jill, is it that obvious! ;)

  • http://www.podtech.net Darold Massaro

    Now I’ve “poked” you on your blog! ;)

  • Bottbottman

    Well, I believe that; Even with the “poke” feature, I find Facebook alot more formal than other social networking sites, such as “Bebo”, or “Myspace”. “Bebo” is used by alot of “Chav”s or “NED”s. I personally have not had an “unwanted” poke. (If there is such a thing?), I have had several pokes on my account, but none “unwanted”. Although, I do believe that the Facebook “team” should produce an “Accept Poke?” feature; this would enable people who want to be poked, to be able to be poked, and vice versa.

    But, I do believe, that Jeremiah is subliminally attempting to get !POKED! As if you are told NOT to do something, then you feel more enclined to do it.

  • Amy

    I love the post, i was LMAO while reading this..
    and do not worry yr attempt at sarcasm and humor has NOT failed.. =))

  • http://www.puaforums.com/ Pick Up Lines

    Wow. I definitely haven't been poked that many times. Maybe better work on it … : )

  • http://www.puaforums.com/ Pick Up Lines

    Wow. I definitely haven't been poked that many times. Maybe better work on it … : )

  • http://www.puaforums.com/ Pick Up Lines

    Wow. I definitely haven't been poked that many times. Maybe better work on it … : )

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  • http://www.belowtradeprices.co.uk/ice-cream-display.aspx Ice Cream Display

    I love this entry! And you’re right about junior high students. Every word seems to have a sexual connotation. It’s got to the hormones.
    The word poke has always been funny to me. A few years ago my husband and I were driving through southeastern Oklahoma and we passed a 7-11 type place called “Toke a Poke.” My husband didn’t know what poke meant in that context. (He’s from Brooklyn)
    I started to explain it meant ‘carry a bag’ home. But then I got really tickled because a totally silly possibility came to me. I’ve heard of drive-thru churches in L.A. Drive-thru weddings in Vegas. Was this the other end of the scale? In OK did they have a drive-thru brothel? “Come by and Tote a Poke home?” LOL
    Sorry, I guess a bit of me is still in junior high. and I must confess I poke my facebook friends!

  • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

    LOL I remember that!