Day #38: Poking People

“I made sure to poke people,” Christy explains.

“Really? I didn’t think you would,” I respond.

“Yeah, it was strange.”

“Any insights?” I ask.

“Poking is as useless in person as it is on Facebook.”

“Okay, so what exactly did you do?” I ask. Poking

“I randomly poked a few people in the arm, times when a gentle fist and tease would have been more common.  I guess poking is sort-of like punching someone in the arm, which sounds worse.  But really, poking is more painful.”  She’s right.  Poking is a deliberately annoying gesture reserved for tormenting siblings on road trips.

“So, what were your conclusions about poking?”

“It’s strange, probably more painful that one intends, awkward, and nobody should do it.”

“So, what types of physical interactions should Facebook add? Should they add the awkward man hug or maybe an Obama-style fist bump?” I ask her.

“I think Facebook shouldn’t try to mimic this type of social interaction. Or maybe it should be limited to only online. I don’t know. Poking was weird though and I won’t do it again.”

“So, what should we replace real-life poking with?”

“The Facebook poke function is to remind a friend of your presence, incessantly. Could we just loan our kids for a day? They might remind a friend of us while making incessant demands. I have it! We could stop by their house everyday for a period of time. Ring the doorbell everyday at 5:00. and yell, ‘I’m here. Goodbye.’ Then we could do it again and again.”

I’m struck by the notion that Facebook has managed to create their own version of socially awkward social interaction.  Poking isn’t popular in person or on Facebook and for good reason.  It’s odd.  Perhaps that’s a step toward online authenticity.  Maybe the poke function is precisely the tool to say, “I don’t know how to gently remind you of my presence, so here’s the tip of my finger jabbing into your ribs.”

I’m not surprised that something as bizarre as poking found its way into Facebook.  After all, we essentially allowed one of the world’s most socially awkward men (Zukerberg) to redefine our social interactions forever.  Is it any surprise then that there’s a touch of eccentricity to the system itself?


3 thoughts on “Day #38: Poking People

  1. Poking -was- popular on Facebook, in the early college years, and it developed a lot of subtle connotations. Mostly, it was giving a tiny affirmation or sending a single positive vibe.

    I noticed you. Maybe I saw something you wrote on someone else’s wall, maybe a song reminded me of you, or I remembered that you’re in Europe for the summer and I thought you might want to know that someone is thinking about you back home, in case you’re lonely. I’m flirting with you, or I’m friends with you, or I just want you to feel like you have a place in the world.

    I think we go to funerals because we want people to go to our funerals. We all agreed together that we want to feel like we mean something and will be missed when we’re gone. I think poking was kind of in that category. We need to know that someone cares enough to spontaneously remember us.

    With really good friends, it could be like when you’re good enough friends with someone to just sit near them in comfortable silence. You don’t have to say anything, because you’re not trying to prove your friendship, and there isn’t anything you could tell them they don’t already know.

    Mostly, though, it meant something like: I noticed you, I remembered you fondly, and I wish you the best.

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