Part I. The norm breaking experiment I chose to partake in read as this...
WAY OFF TOPIC On Facebook or a similar site that has threaded conversation (e.g., status updates with replies), over a period of three days leave a large number of comments that are all completely and obviously off-topic and not relevant to the thread. For this to work, there can be no relation between the reply and the topic at all; just start talking about something else. If you like, address some of them to the wrong person as well. Describe the results. (Note: Please do not leave any offensive comments if you choose this option).
I hope that a little bit of leniency will be granted for the "Note". My version of "offensive" may differ from the readers. This writing in no way reflects the opinions of Christian Sandvig, or any of the CMN 280 staff.
Part II. I was really looking forward to this experiment to be run, as I am a quite fond of making random comments to people in conversation, so I was quite intrigued to see what my results would be from this study. I had never really observed other people's reactions consciously when I had made absurd comments in the past.
I had a couple different reactions to these comments which I have categorized into three main groups, as follows...
1. Comment was completely ignored, and the conversation returned to its original topic
2. Comment was read, and replied to in my context, and the topic of conversation switched to what I had mentioned
3. Comment was ignored, but other responses such as "likes" to my comment occured
I was very surprised that there were minimal "WTF?" or "what are you talking about?" responses. People seemed to be uneasy about confronting others (or specifically me) about obscure comments. But, like I said, most responses were classified in the previously mentioned categories, which I will give examples of each.
Category 1 was the one that I personally found the most amusing, because I knew it made all of the others feel really awkward. My favorite example of this was when one of my buddy's statuses was him being upset with how a soccer game went. The status read "how the f*** did Liverpool lose?" or at least something similar to that, for censoring purposes. My comment (which followed comments by people who were actually talking about soccer) read "Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme was one of the worst things to happen to America." My comment was blatantly ignored, and discussion continued about the soccer game. I think because this was a post about a sport many people are passionate about, the viewers would be more interested in the game and discussion itself, rather than calling me out for being out of place.
Category 2 was pretty funny to see who responded. My sister's boyfriend left a status the other day about he missed the train, and how he was waiting for the next one. I had recently watched the 1994 movie, "A Night at the Roxbury," and decided to drop a line from the movie as a comment, completely unrelated to the content of the status. I wrote "one time I saw Emilio Estevez in a phone booth." Instead of questioning me, or even ignoring the out of context statement, he simply replied with another line from the movie; "the mighty duck man himself?" This was followed by many other Will Ferrell and Chris Katan quotes from facebook users I was unfamiliar with. I think since the situation of the status had a little less passion to it, and my comment was fairly humorous, it was more open ended for other people to accept, and then reply.
Category 3 got my personal favorite response. My friend from back home left a status saying that he would be playing basketball at our local civic center. I left a comment containing a famous lyric by the rap band N.W.A. reading "F*** the police." Once again, completely unrelated to the topic. I expected this to get ignored, but here is a portion of the screen shot.
Many people seemed to like this off-topic lyric post. Once again, I will attribute the humorous aspect of the post (because everyone knows swearing in a rap song is funny) to the response gained. It was the only comment posted, therefor was a point of emphasis on the post itself.
Overall, I'd say there are a few norms illustrated here. One of the more important ones is how people feel like they shouldn't be over-confrontational on the internet on a publicly viewed forum. They do not want to display themselves in public in a negative manner towards anyone, so the confrontation was generally avoided. Another norm is people's response to humor rather than either bland, or dark topics. People are more apt to respond to lighter topics in which all can enjoy, rather than a boring topic, or disinteresting one.
In this experiment, I would say the most prominent norm would be how people (more specifically, facebook users) enjoy sharing their opinions in an open forum, only if their ideas are similar to the other posters. This is shown by people avoiding my abstract topics, and either avoiding the post in general, or returning to its original context (like the soccer example I gave earlier.) Another branch of this norm is how people would respond in order to relate to my post, such as the category 2 example I mentioned with the "A Night at the Roxbury" quote.
Overall, my biggest observation has been that people do what the can to avoid confrontation. (Note: I am only applying this to college students. I understand there are idiotic high-schooler who love starting drama on facebook. I am also excluding the stupid Bears/Packers and Cubs/Sox arguments that blow up my news feed whenever rival teams play each other.) It is human nature to want to get along with others, as the fighting and drama only act as stressors in our lives. Facebook is a happy place, where people skip through the flowery fields in unity, and everyone is friends, and it is proven by the norm that people generally avoid getting in confrontations.