Facebook has grown into such a massive, ubiquitous utility that you might forget that it was once a niche MySpace clone for elite college students to awkwardly flirt with one another.
But that cringey proto-site at Facebook’s core is still hanging around. The most obvious vestigial limb is the “pokes” feature, which has somehow survived years and years of Zuckerberg and co. tweaking the site.
But pokes are still there, hiding deep in Facebook’s app well. And under the pokes is a list of “suggested pokes,” all of them people you should probably never ever poke.
Who are these people? Why does Facebook want me to poke them?
My list seems to consist largely of people I’m friendly with and know reasonably well, but none of them are close friends or folks I talk to (or Facebook stalk) on the regular. As many times as I refresh the page, the same crew of about fifteen or so people seem to cycle through the list.
They seem to range from “people I ran in similar circles with in college” to “true randos.” Neither my sister nor my girlfriend, both my most frequent Facebook interactions, make the list. Only Jacob Shamsian, a fellow Insider reporter, is someone I became friends with or talked to in the last year.
I reached out to Rebecca Cohen, a deputy editor at Law.com, to see if she had any idea why she turns up over and over on my list.
We briefly overlapped at our college paper, and both went on the same spring break trip sophomore year, but haven’t kept in touch. Our last Messenger conversation was in February 2013. And yet, no matter how many times I refresh my suggested pokes, she keeps popping back up.
Other Tech Insider writers report similarly odd, consistent lists of randos Facebook thinks they should poke. Tech reporter Danielle Muoio’s boyfriend popped up on her list, but for the most part Facebook seems to avoid suggesting close friends.
So why does this list exist? What are its criteria? Poking has always been an odd, meta feature in the Facebook ecosystem. When you poke someone, nothing happens except that they get a notification that they have been poked. It’s the Ouroboros of social media interactions, a joke about itself signifying nothing except maybe a vague, flirty intent.
It’s unclear if it’s hung around because the coders want it there, or there’s some huge consumer demand for poking somewhere in the world, or just because no one’s gotten around to deleting it. Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment.
Facebook now buries pokes behind a wall of confusing clicks. In order to get there on the desktop site, click “Apps” then “Pokes” and your unanswered pokes will come up, with your suggested pokes stowed away underneath. In the iOS app click “More” at the bottom right, then “Apps,” then “Pokes.”
For what its worth, Cohen reports that Facebook doesn’t think she should poke me.