Please Don’t Make Me Do This:
Breaking Norms on Social Media
Facebook creeping is fun. You can do it without anyone knowing that you are creeping on them, and let’s be real; we’ve all done it. But what happens when you accidently hit that like button, or when your friends steal your phone and decide to comment on all of your friends’ pictures. You panic. You try to delete the post before anyone can see it, and cross your fingers in hopes that a notification did not pop up on their newsfeed or better yet, on their phone, immediately as it happens.
Why do we do that? Why do we feel as if certain actions on social media make or break us?
For this project, I was forced to take a step outside of my comfort zone. I chose to participate in the “Facebook Creep” as I was assigned to comment on an acquaintances old Facebook photos over the course of three days. Breaking social and social media norms is not something that people feel comfortable doing, so this was not going to be an easy task to take part in.
METHODS: Who to Choose?
One of the biggest dilemmas and probably the most difficult decision I had to make for this experiment was deciding who would be the victim of my experiment. I wanted someone who I knew could handle the torment and at the same time appreciate the comments. I also wanted to pick someone who I knew would be vocal about the comments, and someone that would be vocal to someone that I am close to. The middleman also had to be someone who would not filter the responses of the subject as well. After a great deal of thought, I finally decided on one of my cousins friends who I have met a couple times before. I wanted to pick someone outside of the Saint Joseph’s community just in case they have heard of people in the past taking part in this experiment. The person that I picked attends another university, and is probably one of the most vocal people I know. He is also extremely sassy, so I thought that he would be perfect for this as his responses would be comical and witty.
For my own sake, I wanted to pick someone that when I commented on all of their pictures, it would not pop up on the majority of my friends’ Facebook walls in order to make sure that I did not look like a complete psycho. In addition to that, I wanted to make sure that it would pop up on enough of my friend’s walls that they would comment about it either on Facebook or to my cousin face to face. Altogether my subject and I have six mutual friends, so I thought that this would be the perfect number for the experiment (not too big and not too small).
I also became extremely paranoid before I started the project, and needed to be reassured multiple times by my cousin that his friend would not hate me for doing this. The amount of anxiety that built up inside of me was actually ridiculous. I never realized just how many social norms there are on social media and how hard we try to follow these norms on a day-to-day basis. The fact that I was so nervous and worked up over the comment clearly shows that I am not one to break those norms regularly.
RESULTS DAY ONE: The Build Up
Before I began the project, I wanted to let my cousin in on the experiment. I decided to let him know beforehand to make sure that his friend would not be angry with me for doing this, and to make sure that he could take the joke. After being reassured that this person was a good choice, I had to work past my own personal fear and go for it.
Here is my conversation with my cousin clueing him in on the experiment:
Here Goes Nothing:
I started the experiment off on a Sunday night with one of my friends sitting next to me to help me think of creative comments to write on the oldest pictures we could find. I hit back button on his newest picture, which took me to his oldest pictures from 2008. Such a throwback! And from there I let the Facebook creeping begin. At first we had some trouble because Facebook would not let me comment on certain photos if the user who put them up was private. But once we hit his pictures, we let the “fun” begin. On that first night I commented on a total of 15 pictures.
Deciding What to Say:
Deciding what to say on each individual picture was also a very difficult task, as I wanted to provoke a response, but not make myself out to be a crazy person. I tried to relate my comments to the pictures to help me not sound like a complete creep, so I had to think of creative things to say. Luckily, his pictures were easy to work with.
Here are a few examples of what I posted:
Not even a few minutes after I was done commenting, my cousin who he goes to school with, along with his sister received this screenshot in a group message:
The screen shot was sent to me from my cousin. The two people who the subject sent the screenshot to chose not to respond in the group chat in order to see what he would do.
RESULTS DAY TWO: What the Heck?
Text from my cousin:
Why was he telling me to avoid commenting on those pictures? I was slightly annoyed by this restriction and confused as to why I was being restricted in the first place. Was a conversation taking place that I was not clued in on? Or was he really just protecting his friend from being harassed by ex girlfriends if I commented on the pictures?
I decided to shrug it off and go along with it. After all he will still react in some shape or form after I spam his Facebook for a second day in a row, right?
The next day I warned my cousin that I was going to start commenting again:
WHAT TO COMMENT:
For Day 2, I decided to go in the opposite direction, and comment on more recent pictures in order to make him realize that it was not a mistake that I was commenting on his pictures. And honestly, to creep him out a little bit more.
Here are a few of the comments from Day 2:
I also commented on a couple pictures of him with my cousin and other friends that I have met and still NO COMMENTS BACK!
After commenting for two days straight, I was losing hope. Where was the sass I was expecting? Why was all this commenting for nothing, no response at all?
I had lost all confidence. I felt stupid. I could not do it another day. It was a tough decision, but I had to give up on the subject. My fear was outweighing my hope that he would respond if I gave him one more chance. The fact that he was not talking to my cousin about it, any more than the simple screen shot was disappointing and unexpected. I thought that I had done something wrong, or mad him mad.
Text from me to my cousin surrendering:
My Apology to the Subject:
My expectations for this experiment were clearly set way to high as I thought and hoped that this would turn into a joke, but instead I clearly just creeped the dude out. Why did he not respond to any of the comments on his wall?
Theory One: Crushing Hard Core
Usually, when a person goes on a commenting spree, it is on a close friends pictures, or you are trying to get the attention of the person who’s pictures you are commenting on. This particular subject is a year older than me, and a boy. If a boy started creeping on my pictures, depending on who they are, I would be flattered. But I would also be extremely uncomfortable and not respond to anything. The fact that I was the one doing the Facebook creeping I think played a huge role as to why he did not respond to a single one of the pictures.
I wonder what would have happened if I was my brother and commented on all of my cousin’s friend’s pictures. I think that if my brother had preformed the experiment, the subject would have taken the whole thing a lot less seriously and gone along with the comments. However, because it came from me, the subject was confused and extremely weirded out by it.
This theory goes beyond regular social norms, but also delves into social norms between guys and girls as if roles were changed, a different outcome definitely, in my opinion, would have occurred.
Theory Two: The Facebook Hack
This theory is probably the most logical explanation for the lack of response based on the results that I received from the subject. The subject blatantly stated that he just thought that I was hacked by my cousin’s older sister or by one of my friends. However, this is also the easiest cover up for him to explain his lack of response instead of flat out calling me a creep. I was glad that he was nice about it and stated this response, but it would have been fun to know just exactly how he felt about the whole thing. My cousins tend to mess with people a lot, so the subject thinking that it was a hack is not that far off, and I wish that I had thought of that from the beginning. But then again, it also makes me think that if he really thought it was a simple hack…. why did he not respond? (Hence why I lean towards theory one…I’m a creep.)
Theory Three: Not Enough Comments
Maybe the reason that he did not comment back was because I clearly did not comment on enough of his pictures. Maybe if I had bothered him more, I would have received a bigger response. If this is the correct theory, then the fault lies entirely on me. Because of my own personal anxiety, I cut the experiment short and did not comment for a third day in a row. Who knows, that third day could have made all the difference. However, I do not firmly believe that commenting for a third day would have made a difference other that creeping him out even more. I do not think that a third day would have provoked any further response.
Why do norms on social media exist? Why do these norms run our daily lives, and yet we are oblivious to them unless they are pointed out to us? The amount of discomfort that I experienced due to this experiment goes to show just how much I worry about my social media reputation. I want to make myself seem “normal” on social media and not become labeled a social media creep. People’s actions on social media define our interactions. What was normal and fun to do on social media a few years ago may mark you as “annoying” or “creepy” on social media today. The ever-changing norms are made by us: they are the unspoken rules of the internet, and this will forever run our lives unless we acknowledge their presence and test the norms to their limits with instances like this experiment.