Home Test Driving Poke, Facebook’s New “Safer Sexting” App For Tweens

Test Driving Poke, Facebook’s New “Safer Sexting” App For Tweens

Not content to have one of everything, Facebook now has two standalone mobile messaging apps. Meet Poke, a strange little app that lets users send self-destructing messages. As rumored, Poke appears to be Facebook’s spin on Snapchat, an app with a conspicuously identical purpose and a hit among message-crazed tweens. It’s perfect for sexting without leaving an embarrassing record, which makes snickering at the name a difficult to avoid.

Poke is available now in the iOS App Store, an Android counterpart is supposedly on the way. Instant messaging and SMS apps are a hit on the iPhone as well as on the iPod Touch, a popular device among teens who haven’t quite talked their parents into paying for monthly contracts on an iPhone. Poke and Snapchat both put a playful twist on more traditional messaging apps like WhatsApp and Kik, which allow users to swap messages instantly. 

I took Poke for a test-drive, which was pretty lonely considering that out of 775 Facebook friends, the overlap between early adopters (translation: tech reporters) and people who would ever consider downloading a weird little app like Poke totaled up to exactly one. In Poke, you can send a Facebook friend a message, a photo, a short video or an old-school “poke.” The gimmick is that in composing your missive, you also set a timer for how long the recipient will have before the message self-destructs.


With a maximum time of 10 seconds, the app was a bit fast-paced for me. I certainly could have spent more time looking at what I think was a blue Furby that ABC’s Joanna Stern sent my way. (A picture of a tiny pink unicorn figurine seemed like the only logical response.) 

Poke = Safer Sexting?

Poke is playful by design, but it’s also creepy.

Inviting tweens to swap photos and videos that leave no trace behind is basically a mandate for multimedia sexting. After all, Snapchat was reportedly inspired by the Anthony Weiner scandal, in spite of its founder’s insistence that the app isn’t just about sending anatomical time-bombs. To neutralize the sexting factor, Poke notifies the sender if a message’s recipient takes a screenshot. It doesn’t seem like much of a deterrent, but at least it’s something.  

To be honest, I don’t get the app’s appeal, but I think it’s meant for a younger demographic. The very idea of disappearing texts may seem like a weird, fluffy little phenomenon, but in the era of downloadable Twitter archives and the Facebook Timeline, their ephemeral essence offers an oddly profound alternative.  

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