The complex cultural norms of “Finstagrams”

Emma Bailey, page editor

Trends in Edina tend to come and go, but it seems that finstagrams (fake Instagram accounts) are here to stay. They date back several years, with some students creating them as early as 2014. For those that are unfamiliar, a finsta is a mock instagram account that is usually kept on private settings. As a result, individuals can limit who follows them and express more candid thoughts and personal stories. More common is the traditional rinsta, or “real instagram,” which includes more composed and flattering posts. Instagram users typically allow more people to follow their rinsta than they would their finsta. Some may argue that the nomenclature is incorrect, as people are more real on finstas than on rinstas. Having a finsta myself, I would like to offer some insight into this widespread phenomenon.

For many users, finstagram can serve as a safe space away from the pressures of the real world. Contrary to speculations that social media facilitates isolation, finstagram serves as a network in which people can grow closer, bonding over funny posts or the sacred mutual agreement of following one another. “It’s a community because it’s a place where you can post whatever you want,” an anonymous junior said. Polls, punny usernames, bios, comments, and posts are just a few of the ways that users interact. “I post way too much, I just hit over 1000 posts,” an anonymous student said.

Most users post funny pictures or selfies with the main focus being the caption, which could be a complaint, a call for advice, or just an expression of their general mood. However, some are trusting enough to post illicit photos containing nudity, or chronicling drug use and underage drinking, disregarding the possibility of these photos getting out. For that reason, following another person’s finsta requires a great amount of trust. Oftentimes, users will make another finsta known as a sinsta, or “second finsta,” in order to root out those that they are not as close with and post deeper, even more private information.

But why? Why create such a contained form of social media instead of just changing the rinsta? Students typically feel that, as societal pressures increase, so does the desire to impress. After all, colleges, parents, employers, and total strangers can view rinstas. Do they really need to view our most private thoughts?

Even more enticing is the exclusivity of finstagram. Most people prohibit rinstas from following finstas, so students are somewhat pressured to make an account of their own and join the community. Often friends from different schools or grades will follow each other, but the bond typically exists between those users and not the entire community. Additionally, users often take time to look through their followers and block those that they no longer deem worthy, determined by the nature of a friendship, or by the need to keep finstas exclusive.

Additionally, finsta trends are very popular—and aren’t always very nice. A recent fad involved several users posting images that read something along the lines of “like this post and I’ll send you a name and then come back and comment your honest opinion of them.” In this way, finsta becomes much more centered on gossip that takes place somewhat anonymously and gets dangerously close to cyberbullying.

As a network founded on privacy and secrecy, a finstagram breach could be awful for some users. As we know, once information becomes public, it is available for all to see, including employers, college admissions officers, and other adults. So, while a leak might look like a ton of selfies and random memes, it could include more explicit photos, meaning its effects could be incredibly drastic for the young people involved.

All in all, finstagram seems to have a positive effect on the mental state of users, serving as a platform for connection, stress relief, and general humor, making finstagram its own form of social media that appears to be here for good. Just remember, what goes online, stays online.