You come back from an amazing night out and a camera roll filled to the brim with ridiculous photos and videos of you and the people you were with. You open up Instagram and seconds before you press the plus button in your main account to upload a story or a post about it you hesitate. “This is too dumb, too unimportant, too embarrassing to go on my main account; this can only be finsta worthy.” What has caused this series of mental events, is far more depressing than some bad lightning in a shot.
Finsta (short for “fake insta” or “friends insta”, depends on how you see it) in its essence is a second account, separate from your “main” account so much in content as in spirit. Something like your ‘close friends’ private story, but even bigger. However silly this behaviour might sound, this is a common effect among teen Instagram users and for a very good reason that they perhaps fail to understand; or just refuse to admit.
Despite the initial vanity that this phenomenon might exude to the average user, it might be easier to answer the question “why would you need a second Instagram account?” if we rephrased it like that: “why wouldn’t you post something on your main account for ALL you followers to see?”. The frequent occupation with one’s image and perception by an online audience sets a new precedent every time a piece of content is considered as a possible post. It makes users overly critical of unnecessary details in their posts, as they slowly become paranoid that anything remotely wrong or embarrassing in their picture might lead to them being ridiculed or worse - unfollowed.
If we set aside the generally light-hearted interface of a personal account only followed by your closest friends and family, the general outlook might end up being quite frightening. It uncovers the socially accepted reality that a lot of self-worth is unintentionally but crucially based on following, and one that cannot be kept if someone spams posts about trivial matters instead of perfect pictures. The fact that modern-day teenagers feel the need to nit-pick their main account content so much, that they feel they cannot be themselves but in a separate account, is a riveting example of the toxic environment social media has grown into.
With the overly critical eye of every random beholder having the ability to judge someone with just one photo, alter someone’s self-confidence with one comment or spread a rumour based on an Instagram story, the pressure diverts the creative and fun spirit of most teenagers into creating a finsta. In this day and age, every post is about one’s perfect life, amazing friends, expensive vacation, flawless clothes and aesthetic. What a finsta can provide is a safe space for inside jokes, genuine expression of interests and unfiltered posts of someone’s real-life experiences, those that might not be perfect.
As someone that has been managing a finsta account in tandem with my main account, I frequently find myself scrolling through old finsta posts and stories and laughing aloud with the things that I have uploaded, but for all the right reasons: inside jokes, ridiculous moments with my close friends, or even a reel of 11 stories about my favourite band all seem like different pieces of my real self coming together in an online diary I get to share with only my closest friends. Things that I wouldn’t dare post on my main account because of the fear that I would be judged for it. Of the fear that the 400 followers I have would not care enough for my real interests and would politely tell me to shut up. That nothing past my photos, that I have spent hours looking at meticulously and are far from spontaneous, is worthy enough to share.
The fact that younger people resort to this solution and prefer to trade their hobbies and sense of humour for a well-filtered photo, is beyond depressing. However, as much as we like to stand against such a negative environment, nothing will effectively change if influencer culture continues to prevail. Shall the vanity of online popularity remain dominant in every widely-used platform, then the bubbly, light-hearted authenticity of modern teenagers will most probably remain hidden behind a private finsta account, for the most part.
Awareness needs to be spread and most work can be done only through self-reflection and asking the correct questions to ourselves every time we face such a dilemma of finsta-worthy content. Do we really intend to keep up that picture-perfect interface just to receive some heart emoji comments from strangers? Have we reached a point where we are willing to sacrifice our mental health and true character for a couple more likes or the fear of being unfollowed by people that didn’t like us in the first place?
Is the ‘f’ we give for the ‘insta’ truly worth it?