by Dominique Redfearn
Many Instagram users have been jealous of a friend’s perfect selfie or life update but while they present this curated “perfect life” to their following, they might be hiding a secret life on another account.
Finstas or “fake Instagrams” have become an outlet for many Instagram users to share posts on a separate private account ranging from relatable memes to mini rants on subjects ranging from their crushes or their mental health status.
“(Finstas) are more relatable and humbling compared to personal Instagram accounts which seem to portray a better life than reality,” Riverside City College student Janice Hinojosa said.
A person’s “normal” Instagram feed typically consists of carefully filtered, captioned and hashtagged posts that are viewed by the tens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of followers that they have. Those same users may publish multiple photos in a row post to their finstas within a matter of minutes, many of which are unflattering selfies or screenshots over analyzing an interaction with a crush, to a much smaller following that the user allows.
“I feel like (finstas are) so popular because most people use them to post the more ‘taboo’ stuff they wouldn’t post on their regular public social media,” RCC student Alexa Alcala said. “It’s also still used as an outlet to vent things out like a modern day diary just shared so we can all comment and relate to each other’s lives. It makes us feel less alone.”
These accounts are often used to post what users don’t want to share on their public profile. Hinojosa said she made her account to post more personal photos without worrying about family or friends that she wasn’t close to invading her privacy.
“I let my close friends follow me or just people I admire in general,” Hinojosa said. “We don’t necessarily have to be close but if they’re down to earth, I’m open to letting those kind of people follow me.”
Alcala also keeps her finsta followers list closely curated.
“I only let very specific people follow me,” Alcala said. “I didn’t talk about it because it was my secret outlet between me and my close friends.”
However, just because their account is private doesn’t mean that posts can’t be shared.
Even though the user’s account is set to private and might not have their name or picture immediately visible, many people who use finstas might post selfies or other identifying information that can make what they thought was private, vulnerable through screenshots by the people who they thought they could trust.
“If someone started sharing screenshots of what I post I’d be somewhat creeped out but not embarrassed,” Hinojosa said.
While some might just be embarrassed, others can face bigger consequences if they’re posting photos or captions that are more harmful to themselves or others.
“People tend to act on instinct and that’s when mistakes get made and others get hurt as well,” Alcala said. “If it’s online, it’s online for anyone to see and share.”
While it might be easy to switch to a finsta and post a photo with a long winded rant underneath it, Alcala said that it isn’t always the best solution.
“We should use a healthier approach to dealing with instant emotion,” Alcala said.
“I feel like they’re okay as an outlet to express positive emotions in the moment, Hinojosa said. “Getting wrapped up in expressing negative emotions on a finsta seems unhealthy to me. It’s best to reach out to someone in person who can give feedback and comfort.”
Alcala said that now she isn’t as selective with who she lets follow her.
“I don’t take it as seriously anymore though. I let almost anyone follow me and just post random things (and) rants about my day (and) life.”
While these accounts can be a fun outlet for memes or general posts about one’s day, it’s become known as a place where people might share more serious posts about their current mental health status.
Many finsta owners post rants or screenshots of texts hoping for the validation that they might not get from family or friends because they might not want to reach out for the help that they need. Others, like Alcala, use their past experiences to help those who might be in similar situations,
“I don’t think I post anything too serious… if I post anything more serious it’s usually about awareness and maybe my background story which coincides,” Alcala said. “If I can post it, I can respond to whatever someone might say to me about it and have a discussion, I think that’s important.”