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Jekyll or Hyde? The Finsta Account

By Grace Dawson
On October 4, 2018

The concept of the “Finsta,” short for “fake Instagram,” has crept into the public consciousness and swept through high schools and colleges like wildfire. Many young people, mostly high school to college age, have a secondary private Instagram account where they share with their close friends what goes on in their daily life. The concept of a second account is not a shiny new one: before the dawn of time (or at least the mid-2000s), some teen MySpace users had a second account which they would keep secret from their parents. 

A Finsta account does not display the “perfect” aura of a public or normal Instagram and instead often details the struggles of everyday life or the side of someone that’s only shared among close friends and classmates. Also known as a “spam account,” posts can range from  anything like forgetting an umbrella on a rainy day, to missing a class because the bus was late, or even ten consecutively-posted cute pictures of your dog. 

This concept of the Finsta, however (the concept that students including myself have come to know as the norm for a private account), seems to be a completely different one from the view taken by many adults or by several articles on the subject. Many articles report Finstas as a tool used to ostracize peers and be inappropriate or sexually overt. They warn parents and school administrators about the adverse effects of having this Hyde-like side of social media; worries of cyberbullying, which many of us think of as something that only occurred at the middle school level in the mid-2000s, have come up in said articles and in everyday conversations I’ve had on the topic. 

Because of the discrepancy I perceived between the views of the Finsta, I surveyed followers on my own social media. I discovered that among the 54 of my Facebook and Instagram followers who opted to participate, only 39 (about 69%) had a Finsta, and the majority used it for posting memes and funny pictures/videos or “complaining” or disclosing personal details that they wouldn’t disclose on a public account where they wanted to uphold a more “perfect” self-image.

Of course, many adults view the Finsta as just another facet of the need that this generation feels to overshare on social media. Dr. Metasebia Woldemariam, a professor of Media & Cultural Studies here at PSU, asks why the more benign content (memes, funny pictures, or complaints) needs to be on a hidden account. “This generation has grown up on [social media], and there is an element of ego…of ‘I have followers, people who think I’m important,’” she says. Personally, I think that there is a validating aspect to sharing your experiences, especially your struggles, with peers – there is an opportunity for a support system to emerge through sympathetic comments and even an opportunity for people to reach out to a struggling friend. 

Of course, destruction of future personal and social relationships is a valid concern, as some users do post media of themselves participating in activities that are deemed illegal or inappropriate on their accounts. 

But what if you don’t? Could future employers looking at accounts like these be turned off by excessive self-disclosure? Of course, there is always the additional danger of posting something meant for a private account on a public account, which can be a ready made tool for a source of embarrassment as friends frantically comment “Finsta!!” on your latest post about your meltdown over the sock you just lost in the dryer. However, as long as users stick to the “don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see” rule, I believe the Finsta could remain a therapeutic way of disclosing your struggles and seeing the struggles of others, and maybe even give users a sense of empathy for each other.

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