I’ve heard from a Facebook employee that the feature was built by an intern, and bless their soul. Or curse it if you have something important to do, because you’d be surprised how quickly you can get sucked into a real-time poke war.
Before you drop your latest smartphone in rage about why we’re covering this inanity, let me just say that Pokes are kind of important. Why? They teach Facebook who we want to see more of in the news feed, and help us feel more connected to our friends. But also they’re one of the longest-standing features on Facebook. You might not use them, but they’re quite popular in certain circles and countries, and these people would have a fit if the feature ever disappeared.
So what changed? Previously, getting poked would generate a notification plus a little heads-up bubble in the bottom left of Facebook. But the Pokes page where you monitor your current battles would stay static until you refreshed.
There was some worry Facebook might kill off the Poke when it buried it in the gear drop-down when the profile was redesigned as the Timeline. It’s ambiguous, and now we have chat. Does a poke mean someone likes you? Wants your attention? Is being playful? Or just creepy?
Regardless, some Facebook employees apparently still love the little bugger, and breathed new life into it. Now as soon as you’re Poked, the Pokes page updates in real-time just like the real-time Facebook commenting system Facebook rolled out in February 2011.
The true joy of real-time poking becomes apparent when you and a friend are both looking at the Pokes screen. Getting poked unlocks the ability to immediately poke someone in return, spiraling into an epic back-and-forth battle to see who gets the last poke. You can watch below as TC writer Drew and I get into a vicious battle to decide who wastes more time on social media.