Speak Out: Finstas Aren’t Real

·4 min read

Are you even really part of Generation Z if you don’t know what a “finsta” is?

Whether you refer to it as a finsta, a spam account, or a dummy account, you either have one, or you have a friend who follows a friend that has one.

A “finsta” – a portmanteau of fake and Instagram – is a private Instagram account exclusive to a person’s close friends. Unlike conventional forms of social media, finstas encourage people to post whatever they want, regardless of how random, contextless, and wacky it may seem. Finstas serve as a haven for many; however, people must be aware of its privacy risks, its “constructedness”, and the messages people send when using this platform.

But why would a person resort to making a finsta in the first place?

It is undeniable that people feel a certain pressure when presenting themselves online. In this day and age, anyone can nitpick what is wrong with a photo or judge a person for being too much of one thing and too little of another. People filter out so much of themselves that it is difficult to separate from what is allowed to be seen. Ultimately, anyone can fake it till they make it.

Finstas, however, allow people to share an intimate side of themselves that is not as often displayed in public. It is documentation of a person’s life without all the glitz and glamour. People can share the mundane, routine, and boring parts of their lives without many of its filters. It is the 21st-century window to the soul – the 21st-century diary.

Being accepted into a person’s finsta is a rite of passage similar to watching a movie with acquaintances for the first time or telling a friend a close-guarded secret. After all, who else gets to see how vulnerable a person is if not the people a person trusts?

However, this false sense of privacy comes with a risk. Without the constraints of keeping up with appearances, people may use these accounts to call others out, create unnecessary conflict, or ruin a person’s reputation. Moreover, the things one says in these accounts are not always kept private. A controversial stand on an issue, a text inciting drama, or a suggestive photograph are interesting enough for a person to violate this supposed trust. Sensitive topics and confidential information in these accounts could be exposed with one simple screenshot – defeating the entire purpose of a finsta.

So why do people post in these accounts even if they may risk getting exposed?

Like all forms of media, finstas are created to send a message. Whether it is by posting pictures with loved ones, spamming a person’s feed with dogs, or spitting out a stream of consciousness, finstas make people seem more real, more than the superficial things that they post on their “main” accounts. Finstas humanize people, and it gives others the chance to see people outside of their public persona. In this age, what matters are not the things that we can see but the things that are kept exclusive.

However, the seemingly disorganized nature of finstas does not mean that it is in any way less constructed than conventional platforms. At the end of the day, media in whatever form is used to persuade or sell something. Finstas are no different. People want to sell more authentic and down-to-earth versions of themselves. They make the conscious choice to post the pictures, videos, and texts that they believe best illustrate this, and they edit out the things that make them seem less so.

Perhaps finstas are a direct reflection of our society – a society wherein young people have to hide in a private corner to truly express themselves. Is it not a bit telling that people have to create an entire dummy account on the internet just to feel more comfortable in their skin? If anything, it is a reminder that the landscape around expression on the internet has changed dramatically. Social media has become a canvas for one’s public and private thoughts. Although it may be tempting to blurt out anything and everything that goes through one’s head, there are rules and ethics that one must follow when relaying information on any social media platform. With these conventions also comes the responsibility to process information with people’s rights in mind. If more people learned to decode the things that they saw on social media in a more systematic, objective, and empathetic light, then perhaps people would not resort to these finsta accounts. Maybe then, we wouldn’t have to try so hard to seem real.

*** Adrianne Tolentino is a grade 12 student of Sacred Heart School - Ateneo de Cebu. Originally the article was submitted as a paper for his media and information literacy class)

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