No longer outlets for fun: finstas are sources of negativity


Flannery Enneking-Norton

Fake Instagrams, or finstas, are secondary accounts for users to post more authentically than on their real Intas. However, the distinction between real and fake becomes blurred with exaggerated captions and a disregard for privacy.

Social media is often knocked for being fake: that various platforms allow users to curate a false, idealistic image of themselves and promote a more desirable life. So what happens when social media gets real–maybe too real? Enter finstas.

“Finstas”, or fake-Insta[gram]s are a widespread social media movement among teenagers. Finstas are the diametric opposite of a rinstas, or real-Insta[gram]s: where rinstas are meticulously planned with captions and edits, fintas contain the unadulterated content; where rinstas are curated to improve perception of the user, finstas are outlets for honesty and raw emotion. While finstas seem conducive to authenticity, that can be taken to an extreme, so users post on whatever whim they please. From cute puppies to crying selfies, finstas contain a significant amount of random and personal details in someone’s life. While they can be used productively for meme edits, political vents with open discourse in the comments, or posts with a reminder to be positive, all too often finstas are used to replace direct confrontation, personal connections and emotional progress. Although the format of an online diary might seem appealing and therapeutic, this unfiltered content has been taken too far: finstas have gone from vessels of authenticity to sources of negativity and pettiness.

Finstas have gone from vessels of authenticity to sources of negativity and pettiness

Finstas have largely replaced private journals, texts or vent sessions with close friends when it comes to processing difficult emotions. Instead, they provide an outlet for users to publicly reveal their innermost feelings and struggles. Perhaps this is a helpful way for people to process, but it also immortalizes a brief moment of disappointment or sadness, and blows it out of proportion. It seems that negativity begets negativity; especially during times of heightened academic stress, like during college admissions season or finals, the world of finstas becomes a toxic place as the posts about stress proliferate rapidly.

Getting the words, experience, or feeling out in the open might be necessary for overcoming the problem, but the weight of the issue might not be clearly communicated. There is often a disconnect between the user’s intention and the way that their followers see the post. Finstas skew the line between serious mental health concerns and the normal emotional fluctuations of adolescence. A series of posts about how angry or sad you are, and how disappointing life feels can leave followers wondering: are you depressed, or just angsty? It can be difficult to discern if finsta posts are calls for help, or calls for validation. The attention that comes with public emotional posts feels rewarding: the immediate flood of supportive comments might be just what you seek to heal and feel heard. When it comes to emotional progress, however, twenty comments on a crying selfie will do little to alleviate the root of the problem, even if the affirmations dry your tears in the moment. It seems that finstas are geared toward quantity over quality. Receiving comments is like eating popcorn: convenient and momentarily gratifying, but not fulfilling or sustaining even.

Finstas skew the line between serious mental health concerns and the normal emotional fluctuations of adolescence

In addition to promoting a perhaps exaggerated amount of negativity and drama, finstas are increasingly used as vehicles for passive aggression that adds fuel to existing conflicts without necessarily addressing the issue. Just as posting in the depth of an emotional low makes a problem seem more catastrophic than it is, posting in the immediate aftermath of a wrongdoing can lead to biting words that reflect more indignance and personal hurt than the actual conflict might call for. Posting publicly about personal issues is a way for people to feel validated, and to garner support or sympathy. However, these posts do nothing to solve the problem because they are substitutions for direct confrontation. Posting in the heat of the moment is a recipe for increased aggression and toxicity. As with virtually everything–especially social media–taking a moment before acting is useful. Before making a heated finsta post, it might be worth it to consider whether the issue is better addressed privately and in person. Instead finstas enable students to do the opposite of that. They enable them to post brashly and unfiltered with little time to consider consequences or more productive routes of action. Using passive aggressive posts to target someone is a form of public-shaming, and an immature way of dealing with conflict. Just because it’s easier to make a finsta post does not mean it is the best way to handle the situation.

This is not to knock finstas as a social media movement overall, because they can be productive emotional outlets for some people. It is just that within the reactive and hyperbolic media sphere in which they exist, one should be conscientious of what is being posted and consider whether the electronic screen barrier is making you more bold. Consider whether you might feel better getting one-on-one, personal feedback from a friend in person, or if the heat of the moment is amplifying a problem. If you have beef with someone, is there a more direct way to address the problem, rather than post angrily and subtweet them in a vague but deliberate caption? There is a place for finstas: use them for low-quality pics with high-quality captions, or saucy selfies that aren’t rinsta material, but don’t let them become replacements for conflict resolution, close friendships, meaningful conversations and authentic reactions.