During my sophomore year of high school, I was once tasked with consoling a friend over a harsh post about her on another peer’s Instagram. A foreign concept to me at the time, she explained how the content was posted on someone’s ‘finsta’. Short for ‘fake instagram’, finstas are merely private Instagram accounts created under fake usernames, mainly done by teen girls. They are, essentially, an online space for users, which can only be viewed by those authorized by the account’s owner, to be as candid and as explicit as they please.
After making a finsta of my own, the posts I initially encountered were as shocking as expected. My peers fearlessly posted screenshots of private text arguments, photos of them partaking in illegal activities, and used diction significantly more vulgar than on their public Instagram accounts. Because these accounts are private, users do not feel obligated to meet the standards of their real instagram (or ‘rinsta’) accounts. They are not only more explicit on their finstas, but also more emotionally raw, more comfortable posting provocative images, and inclined to post more frequently; users believe their finstas are representative of who they truly are.
A commonality among many of these accounts is their negative content: girls often use their finsta to talk about their mental health, body issues, and general problems without fear of parents or others seeing. While it may seem cathartic to publicize your problems, it ends up having the opposite effect. Utilizing a social media account as a coping mechanism does not alleviate the pain of mental illness or one’s poor circumstances, it only leads users to strictly focus on the negativity in their lives, making it an unhealthy place for them and their followers. Creating these posts also, in a sense, incentivizes being pessimistic, as followers often console one another via Instagram, so users will continue making self-degrading posts in order to receive the temporary relief of a few nice comments from friends. In an interview with FOX News about finstas, Psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva noted, in regard to posts of this nature, that “A teen who is struggling with self-image issues, posting pictures of her body and seeking comments to define her self esteem is unhealthy.”
Another misconception surrounding finstas is the idea that because the account is private and the followers are chosen at the user’s own discretion, their posts are safe from ever falling into the wrong hands. Wrong. It is just as easy to screenshot posts about underage drinking and distribute them as it was to advertise underage drinking in the first place. Laura Tierney, a social media coach, expressed in an interview with USA Today that “Even if you are hiding behind a username not associated with your name, who is to say that someone can’t screenshot it and post it to the Internet and have that be tied to your name in a Google search result?” Regardless of the private setting being turned on for finsta accounts, the Internet is still the Internet and the inappropriate or offensive content someone posts can still follow them to professional or educational settings.
Ultimately, I am not against finstas. I am against the misuse of finstas. Like any other social media account, they require careful use and consciousness of how a single post may impact others or yourself. Next time you wish to complain about insignificant negativity on your finsta, try instead to make an optimistic post. The more positivity you communicate, the better you and your followers will feel.