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Northwestern University
Stephen Antonoplisleft

Q&A: Stephen Antonoplis '16

Facebook users, take note: the way you use the site may be closely related to the way you see yourself.

Are you constantly posting on Facebook, keeping your network current on your latest thoughts and activities? Or do you use the site more passively, simply scrolling through the feed to see what your friends are doing? 

Regardless of your style, Stephen Antonoplis suspects that the way you use Facebook is closely related to the way you see yourself. Last summer, with the help of a Northwestern undergraduate research grant, he took a closer look at that relationship. 

How did you get interested in this project?

I’ve grown up with social media and technology. Most of my teenage experiences have been mediated by computers, although I didn’t really think about that until I got to college. Now I want to understand exactly what social media is and how I’m interacting with it.

Tell us a bit about what you are researching.

I’m seeking a correlation between Facebook use and the idea of “self-concept clarity” — that is, the consistency with which you define yourself. My measurement tools include questionnaires as well as scales to measure well-being and depression. 

And what have you found?

I’ve found that passive Facebook use correlates with better feelings about oneself. That’s different from what I expected — I had hypothesized that passive Facebook users would report worse feelings about themselves. But active Facebook users have more significant issues with self-esteem. It’s puzzling. I’m trying to figure out why. 

What did you learn about yourself during this study? 

I definitely engage in more passive use. I don’t really stalk people, but I scroll through my feed a lot. I can’t remember the last time I’ve posted a status or a photo, though I send a lot of messages.

How has your research affected how you use social media?

I’ve started to think more about how I present myself in physical and digital environments, and in particular about how my actions and behaviors in digital environments affect and inform others. I’ve also downloaded a tool that measures how much time I spend on the Internet each day. I have definitely reduced my time on Facebook as a result of this!

What do you see yourself doing with these findings?

Hopefully, my study will get published and I can present it. Longer term, I want to go to grad school for social psychology. I’m interested in augmented reality and how the digital world interacts with the “real” world, so I would love to return to this in the future. 

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