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Staring: How Facebook Facilitates the Breaking of Social Norms

Research in Consumer Behavior

ISBN: 978-1-78052-116-9, eISBN: 978-1-78052-117-6

Publication date: 7 November 2011


Purpose – To better understand how some users enjoy using Facebook as it breaks the tension between their desire to stare and the social norm dictating one should not stare.

Methodology – An interpretivist methodology was employed to understand why staring behaviour was so attractive to some Facebook users. 11 Facebook users took part in the study and were observed using Facebook, interviewed about their time online and asked to discuss posts that they had stared at in the past.

Findings – From the study it was shown that staring was commonplace on Facebook and ranged from harmless information searching to more extreme forms of Schadenfreude Staring. Regardless of the staring behaviour, the motivation remained constant. That is, Facebook allowed the users to engage in behaviour that is often stigmatised in offline settings.

Implications – This research highlights the importance of online behaviour as a release from offline tension and constraint. The research also highlights how some users may be actively engaging in behaviour online that offline may be deemed unsuitable or deviant.

Originality – Although much literature has looked at the role of online environments in identity formation, very little has looked at the role of online engagement as a means to specifically break with offline social norms. This research also highlights the growing trend of seeking information that elicits a sensation of Schadenfreude for the viewer. Further research should look to see how other forms of behaviour would elicit similar feelings of Schadenfreude and what implications this has on consumer culture.



Veer, E. (2011), "Staring: How Facebook Facilitates the Breaking of Social Norms", Belk, R.W., Grayson, K., Muñiz, A.M. and Jensen Schau, H. (Ed.) Research in Consumer Behavior (Research in Consumer Behavior, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 185-198.



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