Facebook prides itself on being a "social utility that connects you with the people around you." How does Facebook believe it helps people, especially students, connect?:
Share information with people you know,
See what's going on with your friends,
Look up people around you.
"Pokes" are one of the "social utilities" offered by Facebook to spur connections among students.
What is a "poke"? Don't ask Facebook!:
We have about as much of an idea as you do. We thought it would be fun to make a feature that had no real purpose and to see what happens form there. So mess around with it, because you're not getting an explanation from us.
I recently did ask Facebook what a "poke" is, it seems they really don't know. Read my full interview of Melanie Deitch, Facebook Director of Marketing, in a Digtial Micro-Markets "Real Deal" interview.
Amid all the "who knows what is" poking going on at Facebook, graduate student Hoyt Thorpe takes a poke, in the University of Kansas' student paper, at undergraduate social "life before Facebook," riffing on the "real purpose" of Facebook:
When I was in an undergraduate, we didn’t have Facebook. We had to talk to people in real life. It worked pretty well, but we sort of had the feeling we were missing out.
It was always so annoying when I would meet a perfect stranger and they wouldn’t know my favorite movie, or even my “about me.” Can you imagine?
This was before the news feed or mini-news feed. And I went around for years not having a clue as to my social timeline. I had no idea the relationship status of the girl in poly sci.
Now you go to a party (or start grad school) and get new friends. But if you are at a party and don’t put any pictures of it on Facebook, did you go to that party? Does it even exist as far as Facebook is concerned? No, it does not, and you are a liar.
If you are in a new network and your old friends never see how cool your new friends are, what is the point? You might as well have gotten a job. To help Facebook friends flesh out some of their half-baked memories we finally have the memories chain letter, which is the best thing to happen in Facebook history. I never thought it was enough to have an entire Web site dedicated to myself. Having others write about me is much better.
Not only do others write, the writings are enshrined in Facebook "social timelines":
Social Timeline breaks down the different ways you have interacted with your friends over the course of your life.
In other social media words, "I Facebook social timeline, therefore I am."