Norms breaching on Facebook

Diverse results from a wall inquisitor

By Jessica Cavallaro

Abstract/Introduction

For this norms breaching experiment, I posted on five friends of friends’ Facebook walls, inquiring about their lives and activities based on their profiles (pictures, likes, etc.). I received a variety of different responses, but there was one thing that was always in common: the mutual friend always reached out to me, because their friend had contacted them. Four out of five also sent a screenshot to our mutual friend as proof. One subject answered my questions, but then asked whether or not I posted because of a school project. Two subjects answered my questions normally, but one thought it was extremely funny and the other one’s friends that I do not know commented on the post, making fun of me and the ignorance of the subject. And the other two subjects did not respond at all on Facebook; they completely ignored me on Facebook, but not through texting our mutual friend. Through these results, I discovered that these subjects immediately became weirded out after I posted on their wall, showing that posting on Facebook walls is not a norm on Facebook.

Methods

For this experiment, I basically stalked my friends’ profiles, searching for their friends that I did not know or had never met. Then, I friend requested ten different people, because I knew that not everyone was going to accept my request right away or even at all. Within two days, I had 5 new friends on Facebook. I requested all 10 people on Sunday, March 15th. The first subject immediately accepted my friend request and only half an hour after she accepted, I posted asking her about herself and telling her about myself. I wanted to make sure that I acted fast after they accepted my request, because I wanted to freak them out by how eager I was to introduce myself, breaking the norm in an even bigger way. In my posts, I first introduced myself and then I made sure to ask them a lot of questions based on their profile interests and pictures, and I talked a lot as well about myself in relation to things they did or liked, but I never mentioned the mutual friend. To record everything that happened in this experiment, I took screenshots of the Facebook posts and responses as well as conversations between my friend and I and the conversations between my friend and their friend I did not know.

Results

Subject A

Subject A was friend requested on Sunday, March 15th and accepted my request that same night. I posted on her wall less than thirty minutes later asking her about her high school, where she is going to apply to college, and her interest of running.

Subject A did comment on my post within 15 minutes after my initial post. She only answered one of my questions, but asked whether or not I was posting for a school project. I did not want to lie to her so I told her it was for a school project, but I first commented on her response. She was not angry or upset when she found out this was for a project. She was actually happy to help.

However, she did make sure to text our mutual friend who gave her the idea that it was probably for a school project. She also made sure to include a screenshot of my Facebook post.

The mutual friend did not know about the experiment before I posted on Subject A’s wall or even after Subject A responded to my post as shown through the texts between myself and my mutual friend. I decided to tell him, again, because I did not want to lie and had already conducted results.

Recently, Subject A has deleted the entire post off of her Facebook wall, but has not mentioned it to our mutual friend.

Subject B

Subject B accepted my friend request almost as immediately as Subject A on Sunday, March 15th. She is a friend of my sister — one that I know about, but have never met or talked to. I asked her questions about her high school, looking for colleges, and dancing.

She never responded to my Facebook post, but she did text my sister and even made sure to include a screenshot in her text. Subject B and my sister even talked about Saint Joe’s in their texts, but she did not respond to my post, where I mentioned that I was a student there and then asked her where she was applying.

My sister was very creeped out when she received the text from Subject B and was mad that I embarrassed her. To calm her down I told her it was a project and that I wanted her to try to convince Subject B to respond to my post. However, she was not happy with me and continued to just call me “creepy.”

Subject B still has not responded to my post, but it still remains on her wall. My sister told me that when she saw Subject B in class, she said she was going to respond. However, my post has still been ignored and Subject B has not brought it up again to my sister.

Subject C

I friend requested Subject C on Sunday, March 15. Subject C accepted my friend request about an hour after Subject B (yes, I did three posts in about a three hour time span). I have met Subject C before; he is in my boyfriend’s band. However, we do not know each other at all except for what my boyfriend tells me about the band. I posted on his wall around 10:30 PM asking him about his experience playing at the Grammys and with the college application process since he is a senior in high school.

My boyfriend knew about the project, because I wanted to see if I could get a response from his friend and I wanted at least one of the five mutual friends to know about the project before I posted. This was the only example of that; all of my other friends I told after I got a good response from them or their friend. My boyfriend still answered the same as he would of had he not known, but he was a little more subdued. It was not until the day after I posted when Subject C texted my boyfriend a screenshot of my post. They had a back and forth conversation about what to do. Subject C even made sure to text a screenshot of my post as well as his response to my post.

He responded 14 hours later answering most of my questions, but definitely not all of them. So I answered back about a half hour after his comment, asking him more questions and commenting on his response to me. Two of his close friends also liked his comment. One I knew of, because we went to the same high school and his sister was in my grade, but the other one I do not know.

So then I waited for a response back, but got nothing. Subject C told my boyfriend that I had commented again but he did not tell my boyfriend whether or not he was or wasn’t going to respond back.

Then, a big twist happened. About 6 hours after I had responded to Subject C’s comment, one of his friends responded to my post, basically making fun of me and the fact that I was asking so many specific questions in a wall post on Facebook. I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed in this situation, so I didn’t respond immediately. I was texting my boyfriend who was texting Subject C, but Subject C never mentioned anything to my boyfriend. About 15 minutes after the friend commented, Subject C deleted the post. Luckily, I was able to screenshot it before he did. I decided not to take any further action into the experiment after that, because I could feel the sense of embarrassment from Subject C through his action of deleting the post. However, I did post again telling him it was a school project.

However, that was not the end of this case. About 10 hours after my comment explaining the project, another one of Subject C’s friends commented on my post, not really making fun of me, but making fun of the fact that he didn’t realize this was fake.

Neither I nor Subject C commented on this. However, this comment, along with Subject C’s and mine are still present on the wall.

Subject D

Subject D is my best friend from high school’s current closest friend in college. I was actually supposed to meet her over winter break, but that never happened. I ended up friend requesting both Subject D and another one of my mutual friend’s friends (her roommate), because I did not know either of them and I wanted to be able to have a fast turn around with friend acceptances and posts. The two of them actually accepted me at the same time (I assume they were together and with our mutual friend), so I had a hard time choosing which friend to do. I didn’t want to do both, because the responses would be from the same mutual friend so I ended up picking the friend who my mutual friend is closer with. I friend requested them both on Sunday, March 15 and they both accepted about 24 hours later on March 16th. I posted on her wall about ten minutes after she accepted my friend request. In the post I told her about myself and asked her about her school, college, and the beach. Within a minute after I posted, the other friend that I added (but didn’t post on) liked the post. She was probably happy it wasn’t her.

While I was writing my post, my mutual friend and Subject D were both in the same room. My friend actually messaged me on facebook before I posted and before her friends accepted my request, which I thought was weird. I even asked her why she was using Facebook message, but she just said she was being lazy since she was already on Facebook. At first, she asked me if I friended them. Then, after they accepted, she asked why I posted on Subject D’s wall. I can only imagined what they were specifically saying while this was happening since they were all in the same room. I made sure not to tell her it was a project at first.

Subject D commented on my post within ten minutes. She answered all of my questions and even asked me some of the same questions that I asked her. Twenty minutes later I responded to her, answering her questions and asking her more about herself.

I was still messaging my mutual friend while all of this was happening. Based on my friend’s texts, I decided to tell her it was for a project, because it seemed as though her friend was too weirded out to respond back. So, I finally told my friend that I wrote on Subject D’s wall for school and she was not surprised at all. After I told her, she did not tell Subject D until the next morning (she wanted to weird her out even more), but Subject D still never answered my response to her comment.

My post is still on Subject D’s wall, along with both comments.

Subject E

I also friend requested Subject E on Sunday, March 15. She was the last one to accept my request, which was at about 11 AM on Tuesday, March 17th. I posted on her wall about 15 minutes later asking her about school, the beach, and waitressing and I related all of those things back to myself.

Later that night — it was almost 7 PM — I received a call from my mutual friend. Unfortunately, I was at service so I was not able to answer it and then I had an APEX meeting as soon as I got back so I was not able to talk to him until Wednesday, March 18. However, he did text me that he needed to talk to me because something “weird” happened. At the time, I was not completely sure what he was talking about since he was adamant about not wanting to talk about it over text. However, it ended up being my post that he was talking about.

So then he called me that Wednesday night and we talked about how things were going at school and all the fun, catching up details and then he randomly just said, “So Subject E told me you posted on her Facebook wall. That doesn’t seem like something you would do. Are you okay? Is school changing you? Were you hacked?” I played it off and said back to him, “What do you mean? I just wanted to introduce myself to one of your friends!” Then he said, “Okay, well I guess that makes sense. But I could have just given you her number or you could have just messaged her!” Then I said, “Yeah I could have, but I wanted everyone to know that I was making an effort to be nice to your friends!” Then he got kind of creeped out: “Yeah, but you don’t just post on people’s walls that you don’t know!” Then I just started laughing to a point where I could not stop. It was so hard to keep it in, so I finally told him that it was for a school project. Like the mutual friend in Subject D’s case, he knew that posting on someone’s wall out-of-the-blue just was not my personality, regardless of whether or not I knew the person. Later that night he sent me the screenshots between his and Subject E’s conversation. She also included a screenshot of my post in her texts.

Subject E still has my post on her Facebook wall, but she still has not responded and my mutual friend said on the phone how Subject E did not want to respond, so I did not expect anything after our phone conversation.

Analysis and Discussion

After conducting this experiment, I can confidently say that posting on a friend of a friend’s Facebook wall introducing yourself and asking them questions about themselves is breaking a social norm of Facebook. This is especially true when you do not mention the mutual friend at all in the post, as is shown in my experiment.

A common thread through the majority of the subjects is the use of the screenshot to capture my initial Facebook post. Coming into this experiment, I did not think that this would be necessarily important; however, the results prove otherwise. Of the four people that sent screenshots, they all sent them as if they were saying to our mutual friend, “This person is very weird and here is the evidence to prove it.” I think for the people I used for this experiment, they were most definitely not used to this sort of behavior on Facebook so they were more creeped out and weirded out when it happened to them out-of-the-blue. I also think it is important to discuss the fact that they probably sent screenshots so that our mutual friend did not think that they were weird by bringing it up to them. If someone texted me saying my friend randomly posted on their wall I would immediately ask them what they said, while also questioning whether or not anything actually happened. Because of these various reasons, the screenshots definitely prove that I broke a social norm on Facebook.

In the example of Subject C, I found it extremely interesting that he was so concerned about what to post, how long it should be, etc. He asked our mutual friend a lot of questions about what he should do and how to go about doing it. I think this also tells us a lot about Facebook’s function: everything you say and do and put up on the site is public. Therefore, people worry a lot about how they are perceived; they only want to present their best possible self. Because of this, people become embarrassed when someone they don’t know posts on their wall, asking them a ton of questions. This further enforces the social norm of Facebook. In the example of Subject D, I found it intriguing that the first thing she wrote when she commented on my post was, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH.” I think this also shows how unordinary posting on someone’s wall that you don’t know is.

Overall, I acquired very diverse results from all five of my subjects. However, each one confirmed the social norm that is is not acceptable to post on a friend of a friend’s Facebook wall introducing yourself and inquiring about them, especially with no mention of the mutual friend.

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