The renaissance of the Facebook poke

I got poked and now I can’t stop thinking about sex

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I just got Facebook poked for the first time in eight years.

The last time I got poked was in 2007, when I was thirteen. Boys never poked me anyway because I was too tall or something. But I thought poking probably had something to do with snogging.

The author at an underage rave in 2007, sik1

But when I got poked the other day, I was instantly consumed by frantic confusion and deep panic. Poking probably didn’t mean snogging any more, just like ‘parties’ no longer mean drinking barcardi breezers on park benches. I messaged a friend, crying out for help.

“I just got poked. By a boy. What is this supposed to mean? What do I do?!”

My friend – an all-knowing, fanfic-writing, reddit-wanking, bitcoin-rich God of the internet, informed me calmly that it was perfectly normal, everyone was doing it, and the ‘poke’ was having ‘something of a renaissance’.

“But what does it mean?”

Apparently it can mean one of two things:

1. If it’s a good friend then it likely means nothing. But it is somehow transcendent in its sheer meaninglessness. If you think about it, the act of poking or prodding one another is one of the earliest forms of communication.

Before we had language, and shuffled around in animal skins, we would grunt and poke each other to get attention. So there’s something elegant about the fact that while Facebook might well be the ultimate social tool of the future (either that or the death of human civilisation), it still allows us to connect with our primordial beginnings.

2007: the year of loitering in parks wearing kewl American Apparel hoodies, and poking each other

2007: the year of loitering in parks wearing kewl American Apparel hoodies, and poking each other

2. If it’s an acquaintance or friend who you’re not particularly close with and have no history of in-jokes with, it means literally nothing except sex. It’s a chirpse, there’s no point beating about the bush. It’s a metaphor. For penetrative. Sex.

When I realised this I got quite flustered.

“Do you want to have sex with him?” my friend asked.

“I don’t know! I don’t know if I want to have sex with him! I haven’t thought about it till just now, when he poked me!” I said.

“Ah, and here we have the chaotic beauty of the poke.”

He’s right. It is chaotic – chaotic because we go through life blindly oblivious to those around us and their carnal, primal desires. Going back to the primordial thing, when we were cave people, we would just poke each other when we wanted sex.

Simpler times, when pokes were commonplace

Simpler times, when pokes were commonplace

Now, how are we to know? Through pusheen? Pusheen isn’t sexy. And a real dealbreaker for me – along with men who groom their eyebrows – is people who use smileys (especially tongueface) without a hint of irony. If you send me a text like this in an attempt to chirpse, you can forget it, mate.

But what is there left, in this sanitised age of connectivity? We amble along in our respective virtual worlds, collecting acquaintances we call ‘Friends’. But they’re not all Friends. Or at least, they don’t want to be. Some of them want sex. So they jolt us into consciousness with a concept, a virtual prod, a devil’s whisper. They ‘poke’ us with an insight into their secret lust.

2007 backstalk yielded fruitful results

2007 backstalk yielded fruitful results

And what if you’re the poker – what does it say about you? We spend so much time on social media curating our image: whether you want to appear aloof, funny, carefree, serious, political – your output (or lack of it) gives an impressionistic idea to your ‘friends’ of how you’d like to be seen.

The poke strips all that away. It reveals only base, animalian, primal desire. It’s a blunt instrument of rabid desperation. But it’s also, by nature, so insignificant. It’s a tiny chink in our lives, a barely perceptible nod across a crowded, chattering room, a blip of truth amid the roar.

And there is something beautiful about that pulse of sexuality in our otherwise sterilised virtual existence.

In the end, I poked back. I’m still not sure I want to have sex with him. But I did it anyway. For the rush. And yeah, it felt good.