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It's time to reclaim the Facebook Poke

Think the Facebook Poke is creepy? Let's take it back, say netiquette columnists Andrea Bartz, left, and Brenna Ehrlich.
Think the Facebook Poke is creepy? Let's take it back, say netiquette columnists Andrea Bartz, left, and Brenna Ehrlich.
  • Columnists: We should take back the Facebook Poke because it's there
  • Casual survey says majority don't like the Poke, but that most have used it
  • You can start a poke war with a friend or reconnect with an old acquaintance
  • Don't poke with romance in mind; instead, use "Super Poke" and send a sheep

Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and soon-to-be-book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as a news editor at, and Bartz holds the same position at Psychology Today.

(CNN) -- I have a mission for you. One so lofty, so arduous, so utterly impossible that many of you may abandon the cause.

We're going to reclaim the Facebook Poke. Why? For the same reason we climb mountains, cross seas and eat an entire pie in one sitting: Because it's there.

Yes, since the inception of the social networking site, the mysterious option to poke friends has been available -- and it hasn't really changed since then.

In the early days of Facebook, a version of the FAQ noted that Mark Zuckerberg and Co. just wanted to create something with no real purpose.

That's not really rational when you think about it. As Anton Chekhov said, "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." Yup. A poke is basically equivalent to a loaded gun -- an apt description, really, considering it's become a kind of weird weapon over the years.

What started as a mere bauble has morphed into a tool only regularly used by utter and complete creepers. We conducted an online survey of a few hundred of our friends, fans and followers, and 55 percent banished poking to the realm of "ick."

Still, when asked whether they had ever poked anyone themselves, 59 percent of respondents said yes.

So why the disdain for the digit, yet the predilection for the Poke?

Herein lies the purpose of our mission. Yes, the Poke may have strayed into the realm of 4chan and tell-all web shows, but it has not yet gone the way of Friendster. On that note, we call upon you, individuals of the internet persuasion, to take back the Poke! Here's how:

Engage in a poke war with a friend

Yes, it seems entirely retro -- in the way that things from about six years ago seem retro -- but poke wars were all the rage among the socially starved denizens of the original Facebook, and it's time to bring them back.

According to our survey, most of you -- about 60 percent -- would be down with poking a friend, so why not just keep going? Research suggests that social networking increases levels of oxytocin -- a trust/generosity chemical -- in our brains. So why not stimulate trust via a rash of digital violence most often favored by 5-year-olds?

Remind a faded friend of your existence

"Oh man, I haven't talked to Jimmy since high school -- you know, after he got all 'excited' while dancing with Erma, the foreign exchange student, and had to go home 'sick.' Still, me and Jimmy were tight back in the day. I wonder what he's up to?"

Give or take a few details, this has probably been your inner dialogue regarding some shade from your past at one time or another. While you may not feel entirely comfortable writing said friend an e-mail, or giving him a call -- like you still have his digits anyway -- a poke serves as a kind of, "Hey! remember me? We were friends once! Let's reconnect!" (Yes, exclamation marks are always inherent in the Poke).

Think of it as the digital version of an enthusiastic chance encounter at the drugstore -- without all the awkward juggling of dandruff shampoo and condoms.

Getting some action

Naturally, the Facebook Poke is replete with sexual connotations. In fact, about 31 percent of those surveyed said they would poke someone they want to sleep with.

Michael Gallagher, whose comedy site Totally Sketch recently made a viral video titled "Facebook Sex: Getting Poked," asserts, "Poking is a way of saying 'Hi! You're cute and I'd like to have sex with you' -- it's more than flirting, but not a hard request for intercourse ... which means less impact of a 'rejection.'"

It's also a totally weak move. As one of those surveyed said: "It's Facebook's creepy tool of socially acceptable sexual molestation."

So instead of just poking some dude you're into, might we suggest a more subtle form of flirtation? A method that the folks over at SuperPoke -- a popular Facebook application launched in 2007 that allows you to wave, roundhouse kick, etc. -- assure us is a true classic: Throw a sheep at him.

If he's into weirdos, he'll be totally smitten -- and if he's unimpressed, he's probably into boring vanilla poking IRL, anyway.


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