The Curious Case of the Finsta (and What it Says About Social Media Culture)

The finsta; the private, “secret” Instagram account where people can post whatever they please without fear of criticism, generally to a select group of followers. Personally, I enjoy the finsta trend. I like seeing my friends post memes and less-than-flattering photos of themselves. For the most part, it’s harmless fun. Yet, part of me can’t help but recognize what these accounts reveal about social media as a whole.

The finsta phenomenon has fed into a larger culture brought about by social media that endorses venting private thoughts and feelings on the internet. In doing so, we can momentarily feel like we’ve talked about our problems and have begun to deal with them. Yet, we haven’t, and that’s what makes it so addictive. It’s much easier to push your feelings out into the void of the internet than actually process them; however, it doesn’t help in the long run because it’s a temporary fix. The problems are just disseminated to an audience, while the person avoids actually dealing with the problems themselves.

It can also weaken our relationships with others. People bond by confiding in each other and sharing secrets. It's scary to talk about how you feel with others; thus, posting your feelings online without actually having to entrust them to a specific individual can seem more appealing.

While that option may appear favorable, it inhibits people from forming intimate bonds because they’re not directly confiding in their friends. Instead, friends find out information through an Instagram post, which can feel impersonal and somewhat cold.

The concept of a finsta also highlights another aspect of social media culture: fear of judgment. The fact that people feel they must escape to a second Instagram account in order to post what they want divulges the judgmental and somewhat fraudulent nature of social media.

Fear of persecution on the internet is greater than ever, these days, with people editing their appearances in photos to fit beauty standards set by Instagram models (who, in most cases, are also doctoring their photos due to the same fear of criticism). On an alternate, more private account, people feel like they can be more candid.

Our main Instagram accounts consist of delicately crafted feeds to create an image of the ideal life, the life we want others to think we live. The finsta craze highlights how, in reality, we’re all just hiding behind a façade. Though, in a way, I think that’s kind of comforting. The finsta phenomenon reveals a lot about social media culture, but it also gives us reassurance that everyone feels the same pressures we do.

I’m certainly not saying that having a finsta is bad and we all need to go deactivate our Instagram accounts. I’m also not agreeing with the sentiment expressed by many Baby Boomers (no offense intended, Boomers) that social media is poisoning today’s youth and making us less personable. In fact, any criticism toward the finsta craze would just make me a hypocrite. Plus, as I said before, I love a good finsta.

My identification of specific trends that finstas reveal is less of a criticism and more of an observation — an analysis of contemporary social media culture, if you will. Again, most of the time, those accounts are just a bit of harmless fun. Sure, there might be some negative implications; nevertheless, at the end of the day, the world has much bigger problems to worry about than teenagers expressing themselves on the internet.