In this new age of technology and platforms of “over-sharing” exists the ever-growing journaling concept unlike any other that is, plain and simple, a finsta: a Fake Instagram. Most people born before 1995—making it a Gen Z trend rather than a millennial one—aren’t familiar with this new form of social media that significantly varies from a normal Instagram account. The primary use of a finsta (versus a “rinsta”; a real Instagram) is to speed-blog. It’s a form of blogging that Tumblr could never achieve because of its inherent secrecy and primary focus on re-posting rather than sharing original content, nor could WordPress given the failure within its RSS interface and inability to bypass the elevator-speech test—can I hear your introduction or skim your post in the time it takes to descend to the lobby of any given elevator?
Finstas are fascinating because they veer from the public endorsement aspect that your real Instagram would aim for—aesthetically pleasing photos, impressive captions, a collection of likes from varying audiences that imply popularity or relevance—and they are instead catered to specific, controlled audiences (usually 50 or less people/followers), existing independent of any social obligation to endorse. For example, a typical finsta post of a senior in high school or freshman in college is an unfiltered, often low quality or “un-rinsta-able” photo of the account-holder that is either so unattractive or inappropriate (for the everyday Instagram user) that it is funny, or an “outtake” that, for whatever reason, didn’t quite make the main account. Its caption usually reports on a highlight or low point from the account-holder’s day, or a memory connected with the photo, or any other random thought that the user chooses to put out in the open for their handpicked followers to see.
At first glance, a finsta appears to be highly problematic, considering the fact that they are usually associated with drinking, poor decision-making, or trash-talking that does not fly on other social media outlets (Kim Kardashian and her rivalry with Chloe G. Moretz is tied for number one for public smack-talk against Nicki Minaj calling out Taylor Swift that one time, too. Awards show drama is killer.) Instagram’s interface supports this “not-so-secret-life” type of account not only because of how easy it is to switch between accounts, but also because audiences can be easily controlled, and posts are not limited to 140 characters. I have both witnessed and experienced my fair share of finsta drama, mainly caused by screenshots taken by (what can only be categorized as) deceitful followers, shared to people who are excluded from this strange, alter-social-media-universe. While the chance of drama occurring has the opportunity to be intense, it usually doesn’t get too bad, once again due to the fact that audiences are usually very controlled and followers can easily be removed. Deductive reasoning also works well in tracing the cause of a leaked post and burdening the person responsible, so at least within the college crowd I can report that it’s not a problem as often as it could be.
At the core, however, I believe that finstas are incredibly healthy means of maintaining one’s mental health and balancing or expressing emotions as one deems fit. Personally, I have a tendency to not share stressful moments in my life with friends in depth, because my personality urges me to commit to the fun and strong persona that other people want me to have—and on some level, that I want people to think I have. Even with my arrogance, I’ve found that when I am struggling with a situation or want others to sympathize with or console/advise me, I have the option to post a 3-paragraph explanation of the scenario, and followers (friends, really) can either mindlessly scroll past it, no feelings hurt, or even better, they can actively treat it as an open-forum and collaborate on solutions or publicly sympathize via comments without making the situation “too deep.” I speak for myself and many others when I say that, as much as I’d like to go in and rant to a counselor about my day, it can be a bit overbearing to wait through a 50-person list just to complain for a half-hour about being sad that I wasn’t able to go to a basketball game.
That’s where finstas come in clutch: You can touch on topics that are considerably menial from afar, but could possibly be the source of deeper problems when trailed. I have observed people post about topics varying from exiting a toxic friendship to the death of a family pet, or even the frustration of not getting the classes they wanted for next semester. Regardless of the subject, the account-holder is almost always eased in one way or another after sharing how they feel. It isn’t so much what other peoples’ advice or feedback is that the user concentrates on, given that the purpose is to journal in order to understand and organize one’s thoughts on a specific matter. It’s the concept of getting something off of your chest and encouraging a discussion by letting other people sympathize with your problems by receiving support of what was vulnerably shared on the account that matters.
Like a rinsta, the hope is to simply feel less alone. I personally feel more at ease knowing my friends can still be aware of and understand my circumstances, even if they may not know what to say or how to advise. And because it’s a choice to follow each user (and not mandated through social obligations like Facebook, for instance) my friends who choose to opt-out from my ramblings can do so without judgement. The primary purpose of my finsta is to avoid the core issue of social media “fakeness” that is becoming more and more prevalent and criticized as social media networks become bigger in our day-to-day lives by unbottling the reality of my life and ridding myself of a happy-go-lucky “funny girl” persona as demonstrated on my rinsta. At least with a finsta, there is context to usage and personal associations with feelings and emotions that range beyond your everyday Instagram user flaunting their latest humblebrag.
The greatest benefit from keeping a finsta (which is, at this point, interchangeable with “diary”) is the ability to refer to old posts, either through unique hashtags or apps such as Timehop that allow users to see their activity across all platforms on the current day in past years. The significance of this reflection is that one is eventually able to monitor their growth (or lack thereof) over the years, feeding into the crucial (and free!) healing that is self-help, because archived posts can ultimately offer solutions to similar current-day problems. Liberal communities tend to promote mental health balance and wellness but those who seek help are never given options on how to actively self-help. The advice I’m often given is to download wellness apps that help users “calm down”—helpful, I suppose, but not the social emotional support that I need. I believe in utilizing mental health resources via counseling and therapy, but more than that, I strongly advocate Social Emotional Learning because it was equally incorporated alongside regular STEM subjects when I was in elementary and middle school, and the benefits I have gained from it have been long-lasting.
With the rising problem of mental health problems and imbalances in teenagers as our generations go on, we need to take preventative measures in educating them on the importance of truly understanding emotions, which can be achieved in the lost art of journaling. And for students who didn’t quite encounter wellness strategies via SEL-implementation in their schools, being able to openly share and trust in others’ confidentiality is an important step in the right direction in normalizing complex emotions and stress-management in society, a crucial move that has been overseen for decades since mental health problems first arose in modern-day America. Just try it: Go to Google, search for a random username generator, and let it all out on your new finsta.
Photo contributed my op-ed contributor, Sara Ameri.