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Mental Health

Finstas: The Secret World of Sadness

While I’m sure a lot of readers will understand me when I say “finsta,” I’ll explain it anyway; Urban Dictionary defines it as a combination of the words fake and Insta(gram), and it serves as a private platform for users to post more personal pictures for their inner circles, for the most part. And though the accounts may be rooted in posts not for the public sector for many reasons, one of them includes because people post pictures of themselves upset, crying even. While we’re seemingly connecting online as we double-tap our finsta friend’s tear-streaked selfie, are we talking about it?

So, what’s it?

It is this rather odd phenomenon, in my opinion, of individuals revealing parts of their most vulnerable self, whether to share their journey, or connect on cyber platforms, with no real dialogue occuring. Initially, various forms of social media aided in stimulating conversations by breaking down some of the barriers:  individuals could partake in online hashtags like the #MeToo movement, and allow the remoteness and comfort of posting online to ease some of the pain of the tough-to-have conversations.

But with finstas, we’re stopping at double-tapping, commenting, and, DMing our concerns. We allow these parts of our lives to live within the confines of a social medium platform, where our emotions are validated with likes and emojis, and where a support system exists in the form of followers with funny usernames and double identities. Many finstas contain posts that are embedded with sadness, anxiety, and helplessness, and because we can share these experiences through cyberspace, we feel connected and supported. But we aren’t.

We aren’t taking the next steps. We aren’t drawing attention to the topics in those secret posts, the ones we so desperately hide from the public social media, while we type long rants and upsetting news. Yes, finstas serve as one means of an outlet, and no, not all of the posts are sad, and many of our friends who may even post sad things aren’t necessarily depressed, but the issue is bigger than that. The issue is that these conversations solely exist in cyberspace.

Posting online, an arguably easier task than verbalizing our discomforts and emotions, has unfortunately replaced the dialogue all together. It’s a big statement, maybe even a fallacious one, but it appears to be true: the online chit-chat has trumped our ability to go beyond a screen and experience human interaction in an alternative form. One I most particularly pay attention to is how the finsta world has created a labyrinth of social connections that have manifested this false innuendo that we are sharing, connecting and supporting. We are isolated and posting and liking and commenting. But that’s about it.

A solution is not rooted in a wide-spread deleting of private accounts, nor will it stem from not posting these experiences, either. Rather, it’s the bridging of these platforms (cyber life and real life) that will actually stimulate the dialogue we need. I’ve seen way too many pictures of my friends crying with long, rambling captions explaining the ins-and-outs of their tough days to believe that some of these posts were random, isolated events.

It’s a widespread use of a private social media platform to express oneself. But the communication is extremely short-lived, because, although we are sharing it with our seemingly closest of friends, we often fail to establish and maintain those conversations with those same friends beyond the cyber sphere. These people following our finstas are the ones we aren’t actually talking to. They’re the friends who should be there, and they are, but often solely in the comments section. And while the online version of support can sometimes feel validating and refreshing, it’s also an incredibly lonely form of reaching out for subtle help. It’s sad to feel like our outlet and support system exist within an app, and that the follow-up conversations never really happen.

It’s also noteworthy to say that posting online is one of the fastest and easiest ways to reach your audience. On an account that most of your close friends follow, it may seem easy enough to publish a post and call it a one-and-done deal of working though your emotions with widespread support. Because, that’s what it is. It’s a widespread form of very weak support. It’s having a handful of your friends “in” on what’s going on, without having to single-handedly update all of your peers on how you feel. It’s like an online diary with viewership.

It’s a way for people to put things out there without directly attaching their issues to someone. It’s a way to perhaps spark those conversations with a general audience because they’re maybe too scared, insecure or wary of directly contacting someone. So they post it. Because that goes to everyone, it’s a baited hook waiting for someone to hopefully grab hold and ask if we’re okay.

I have to acknowledge the benefits of sharing online: you reach your audience in full very quickly, there’s no face-to-face interactions (and we all know how bad teenagers are at those), and you can exit out of the app when you don’t want to talk about it. But what will the repercussions be of not talking about it to the lengths that we should? I fear it’ll lead to an isolation of our emotions, that our feelings will be alive, but only online. And that the same people who share a cyberspace imbedded with secrecy and sadness will grow distant to us as we neglect to transfer those conversations into the real world. I fear our feelings are hiding not just behind the screen, but in the screen.

We are trapping our thoughts in a realm with no real support, with no real dialogue, and with no real connections. It’s both sad and scary to imagine all of the concerning posts that simply stay concerning posts: where do they go from there? They’re lost amid the flood of spam photos and they dissolve into the timeline, and hardly get dug up and discussed.

It starts with you. Stimulate those conversations, yes, even the ones you don’t want to have. If technology is the only way to connect in some cases, pick up the phone and call. Don’t let your friends’ sadness or pain expire in your timeline when you can help make a difference in the way they feel. An emotional check-in is necessary and overlooked, but crucial in friendships and any kind of relationship. More than anything, we need to talk more, and perhaps, post less, or post with more intentions of the posts bringing the conversations past the screen.

Morgan is a freshman at Tulane from Miami, FL who writes poetry alongside her journalistic endeavors (check out her blog: http://morganepoetry.blogspot.com/). She loves her dog, New Orleans and The Office and is passionate about the environment, education and her succulent garden in her dorm. When not writing, she's probably watering her plants or on a nice walk. Follow her on Instagram @mo.elms.
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