Proper Facebook Etiquette

#941 Strange pokes in the night

Saturday 26th March, 2011

Dear Mariann,
An ex-girlfriend from a few years ago has started poking me, out of the blue. I haven’t seen her for years, and very rarely speak to her on Fb, so I am finding this a bit strange. We have been exchanging pokes on a fairly regular basis now for the past week, and last night she sent me a message via Fb chat asking how I was and what I was doing. All pleasant. The pokes have been going on today too. What does this mean? Should I be reading too much into these pokes?

With thanks from Wilbert via a puff of smoke signals

Has the catalyst been a particularly ‘buff’ Profile update or lottery win from your side of things?… Have you been tagged in photos wearing fancy suits, or those ill-advised ‘trendy’ ripped T-shirts that are pricey, but equally oh so cheap?… Do you have a valet? Hang out with celebs? Post funny pictures of your ‘posh’ puss on your Profile Page? If so, rather than ‘strange’ file under ‘proactively digging’, as Wilbert you are the ideal man and thus are irresistible to any woman – especially those in the ‘ex’ category.

Should you be reading too much into these pokes? Well now, what is it that is putting you off? The imagination by her on the other side of the screen picturing you in your smoking jacket best, or her potential to post/tag/update something that belongs in the pastness of the past? Perhaps it’s the smoking jacket vision that really puts you off.

Generally what makes these sorts of things uncomfortable is the lack of communication context and clarity. A poke is neither a ‘hello’, nor is it spitting in your face to get your attention. We can safely say that it lies somewhere between the two – just closer to one or the other depending on whom the poke is from. Let us imagine that she is feeling overbearingly ‘shy’, and using pokes to be able to instigate a conversation when too much time has passed to be able to say comfortably ‘hi, it’s been too long’. Instead it’s poke. Poke. Poke. for each interim moment lost between you.

This means that any Facebook conversation is likely to be a series of stops and fumbles, initially false unders and overs, as you both try to gain a steady ground from which to play catch-up-tennis from. Think of this part as a rather irritating game of dodge ball. The thrower with the power of suggestion and the received/victim likely to get hit by something unavoidable sooner or later.

Should you accept her invitation to chat, keep things on an even keel by repeating ‘As you say‘, and ‘Of course I completely understand…’, ‘You are so right…‘ She will then be most likely to reveal her main objective – this is likely (and obviously) you, although do try to act surprised, perhaps time to throw in a ‘You are so right‘ at this point. Then the conversation can continue.

The problem with pokes is that there is no middle ground between having an immediate conversation and what would be the out of Facebook equivalent of waving at each other whilst crossing the street. In short, you’re either on. Or you’re off.

A friend of mine once said that Facebook has great flirting potential. I think that’s quite right; most Profile’s are ‘attractive’ and can spill over into their own version of Hello! as people vy for attention. Look at me! LOOK at me! LOOK AT ME! they seem to say.

Imagine this, if you were both on another type of social, say an internet dating site would you be in conversation or running for the hills?…

As for being each others ‘exes’, it’s social convention that dictates how sticky this need be. Another way to think about this is that you knew each and got on very well once, so it’s first and foremost a friendship. A friendship that suits the purposes of what social networks should be for – ie. communication. One thing that poking cystalises is the futility of the reciprocated reply. There’s only so many pokes you can take.

So w/should you instigate your own invitation to Chat? Well, if it were I, my opener would be less ‘live’ and more mediated via a Facebook message. The truth is though this course of action is steeped in tricky social convention itself – which is probably why your ex has not adopted this approach herself Wilbert. What immediately springs to mind is the how you are going to compose this message (via a keyboard of course), and what you are going to include.

It isn’t about being an ex, it’s about reconnecting with a friend, just with time spent slightly apart in the interim. Taking this course of action means that you get to put into play the dodge ball yourself and then take a running jump as it will swiftly be thrown back into your direction. Very secure people won’t care what her reply will be, but there’s likely to be some curiosity, and Facebook provides a nice safe environment to catch up, and then decide whether to keep them on any friends list or ‘block profile’.

Earlier when you were just poking, there was not enough information. Please be aware that a Facebook message, and/or chat might leave you feeling slightly uncomfortable or overwhelmed by too much information. The flood gates are likely to open. Then again, it’s far too easy to be too self-absorbed to properly engage with someone else, so there’s a contradiction to take care of.

When in doubt, don the smoking jacket and continue poking back.

4 Responses to “#941 Strange pokes in the night”

  1. Charlene says:

    What does “Poking” mean?

  2. Old Girl says:

    My husband has taken to being on facebook a lot on recently. I don’t bother with it much but have noticed that an old girlfriend is top of his friends list and that they seem to have a lot to say on each other’s wall. He is 57 and she around 32 and according to him had a thing for him before we met. Should I be worried?

  3. Julie says:

    My housemate has made a facebook page about me without telling me. It has photos and all that. It is like she is trying to be me or something. Some of my friends ahve friended this ID – but nit is not my real ID. Should I confront her or leave it as we won’t be in the same house after May? Is this normal?

  4. CHenry says:

    Poke on beyond the gate

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