I often post content to Instagram that some people would deem inappropriate. This content is not something I want everyone to see- I only allow 57 friends to follow my account. This account is my finsta, which I keep in addition to my ‘regular’ Instagram account that I have set on public and allow anyone, including family, friends, acquaintances and strangers to see. My finsta is a space in which I feel free to post crude and funny content without hesitation.
Since middle school I have been lectured on the dangers of posting things online and how even if you delete something after posting it, it could be to late to really get rid of the content. People on networked publics have to take into account that anyone could be viewing their profiles and that the content they post can spread quickly. In real life interactions people can keep things private quite easily, but online it is much harder to do so. Also, with the continuous rise in social media, the pressures to maintain ones accounts rise too. Because social media is such a large part of social life amongst young people, people often keep their main accounts public because people can find a way to seem them on private anyway.
Finstas are a way for one to create a private, more controlled space on social media. Hypothetically, only close friends who would follow someone’s finsta would know what it was called which helps to keep the account more hidden from others. Finstas take work to maintain because they require more monitoring but nonetheless provide a way for individuals to preserve privacy in a networked public.
Daniel Patterson of the Huffington Post attributes the birth of the finsta to the time when parents started using Facebook and Instagram. He explains, “as more parents began ‘friending’ and ‘following’ and ‘posting’… the platforms once synonymous with freedom, became constrained by oversight. Teenagers faced a choice: quit social media or evolve. They chose evolution… in the form of the Finsta.” While some teens may be taking to finstas to find privacy and regain freedom from their parents, I also believe that many people make finstas to gain freedom from the pressures put on them by their peers.
Patterson speaks negatively of finstas saying that, “the only rule is that there are no rules; couple that with (perceived) anonymity, angst, sexual curiosity, envy, insecurity, relationships and rivalry… and you have entered the world of Finsta.” I think Patterson’s viewpoint is uninformed and poorly thought out. The point of a finsta is not to be anonymous, but to be private. Every finsta I have seen has been filled with photos of the accounts’ owner. The name of a finsta account may not always allude to who the owner is, but that is done intentionally to keep the account private and maintain control over who is aware of the account. I believe Patterson’s negative connotation of finstas being an unregulated space in which “angst, sexual curiosity, envy, insecurity, relationships and rivalry” are expressed is a failure on his part to see all of the benefits that could come out of such a space.
Today there is enormous pressure on young people to create their profiles to be perceived a certain way- a way that is sometimes unrepresentative of who one is or what they are experiencing. An article on bewebsmart.com notes that teens on Instagram, “don’t just snap a photo and upload… on Instagram they will edit the photo… create and refine the perfect caption, then publish and hope for the likes to roll in.” Instagram can be especially stressful for young people.
According to Justine Harman of Elle, “the ramifications of feigning perfection, even in the digital space, remain unclear.” Harman quotes a teenage girl who remarks, “‘my rinsta is the filtered me- it’s how I often want people to perceive me. It’s where I look good in my pictures, I’m happy, and I’m having fun. My finsta also shows that, sometimes even more than my rinsta because its so genuine, but it also shows me sad, scared, drunk, or embarrassed.’” For many, a finsta is an outlet for expression and a place to be real. There is no pressure to conform to societal rules or need to worry about how many likes a post gets.
I see finstas as a positive thing for young people. Whether one wants to admit it or not, we all feel pressure to come across a certain way on social media. We almost always follow the unwritten rules of social media that tell us what to post and what not to. Finstas are a way to take a step back from those pressures and explore and nurture whom one really is without having to conform or be apologetic.