On the etiquette of pokes

Posted by jerry on September 27th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology, Theory

A while ago someone on Facebook poked me – and then wrote on my wall that they were not sure if they knew me well enough to poke, and whether this was too intrusive.

I had to think about that one. Where does a poke sit, ontologically speaking, – especially a virtual poke?

Clearly a poke is attention seeking, but it’s also a way of saying ‘I’m thinking of you’ – without the complication of words which could be misconstrued. Pokes are relatively undemanding – at least virtual ones are, so there is little pressure – I can choose to respond or not as I see fit and no-one will be upset if I don’t poke back, or if I do.

It is a way of keeping in touch without having to think too hard about a response, and it takes up little bandwidth, unlike the reams of emailed jokes and videos that seem to serve the same function in the email world.

I suppose, like any form of communication it could be seen as adding marks to an otherwise blank space, but it clearly performs a narrative and above all social function. And I suspect that that is why Facebook pokes are so popular – and it’s no accident that the poke function was one of the first to be added to Facebook and forms part of the core of the software.

As a micro-function of social software a poke helps to enact a sense of community and acknowledges that someone out there is thinking of you!


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