Abby Miller | Society Staff Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever since Instagram added the feature for users to toggle between multiple accounts, finstas and spam accounts have been on the rise.
Short for “fake Instagram”, finsta accounts are usually private, exclusive accounts that a user has in addition to their “rinsta”, or real Instagram. A 2018 article by Joanne Orlando of The Conversation says that teenagers use finsta accounts for one of three reasons: for their real friends, to enjoy private interests or to boost their popularity. Some users will also create their spam accounts to showcase their art or photography.
When teenagers create finsta accounts for their friends, the main purpose is to share posts that aren’t deemed “good enough” for their rinstas. Orlando said “Growing up in the social media era, [teenagers] are acutely aware of the pressures on them to create and maintain the picture-perfect online profile.”
In this case, the FOMO feelings are completely real. Teens feel like if they aren’t posting smiling, beautiful pictures on their Instagram all the time, they aren’t as happy or popular as their peers. Finstas thus serve as an outlet for teens to post their not-so-perfect pictures. Here, teenagers don’t need to be happy and smiling all the time.
The phenomenon of finstas is particularly new in the realm of social media. In a 2018 article from the Columbia Daily Spectator, author Francesca Ely-Spence, said that “social media platforms are not typically seen as places of authenticity and vulnerability”. However, this is exactly what finstas aim to be. By keeping spam accounts private, users feel like they can be more honest about their thoughts and feelings on social media by only allowing close friends to see these personal posts.
In this regard, finsta accounts sound like a good idea. Teenagers can use their finstas as an outlet for their negative emotions and stress. This is an especially useful tool for high school and college students. As Ely-Spence described it, finstas function as “DIY therapy.” When students cannot get an appointment with a therapist at their school, or the competing pressures of college seem too much, a finsta account makes for a good place for students to rant about their struggles to a trusted group.
However, there can be danger in these accounts. When teenagers only use these accounts to talk about the bad, the accounts can become an echo chamber, Ely-Spence said. Friends constantly offer words of support on users’ rants, which can lead to the reinforcement of toxic or unhealthy behavior. Or, users will turn to their finstas to reaffirm that their actions are rational, thus making them feel more secure with their own choices. The echo chamber can then eventually lead to the defeat of one of finstas original purposes: advice or guidance in the place of other mental health services.
Security, as with most aspects of the Internet, also becomes a crucial concern for finsta accounts. Orlando said that finsta posts can still be exposed through screenshots, even if the account is private. Bullying, posts about illegal activities and drama can all be harbored on finsta accounts, the article also said. Just because finstas give off the appearance of being more confidential and secretive doesn’t always mean they’ll live up to this expectation.
Throughout college, and life, there’s bound to be moments where the world seems like a bit too much. Having an outlet for these emotions can be a great thing, but like any other form of social media, finstas can have their downsides. A couple of rants online never hurt anyone or their mental health. Just make sure you know when to disconnect and talk it out with someone face-to-face.