Editor’s note: The name of one of the students in the article have been changed to protect her identity.
Most Instagram posts are carefully shot, edited and captioned. Despite this, college students in long-term relationships with their Insta accounts have begun to avoid the calculative nature of the posting process with one easy solution: the Finsta.
The Finsta, or fake Instagram, is a separate, private and often illicit account users share only with their closest circle of friends. Whereas one’s primary Instagram profile may have followers the user has never met or barely knows, Finstas are much more private. The outside world, including future employers, elder peers and overbearing family members, is blissfully unaware of its presence.
According to Jane Morris, a human relations freshman and sorority member, “In Finsta territory, there are no rules.”
“With each day, Instagram is becoming formalized,” Morris said. “And as it does, it has become clear that everyone is watching.”
Users are drawn to Finstas because they allow them to publish memories without fearing the judgment of hundreds of followers on an official profile. Finsta account holders can post unedited selfies, as well as photos showing scandalous activities, such as drugs or alcohol.
Morris’ Panhellenic sorority involvement includes an agreement to censor content on personal social media profiles, which lead her to create a fake account to escape being monitored.
“I just now got a Finsta,” Morris said. “All of my sorority friends have one, so I wanted to see theirs and be a part of it. We can post without fear of getting in trouble.”
In sororities, an officer position has traditionally existed to supervise behavior at events, but certain chapters have begun appointing someone to specifically censor scandalous social media content.
While some users are hiding certain activities from their peers, business freshman Valentina Novoa said she experienced a clash between her desire to use social media freely and the traditional values of her extended family.
“Even if I am pictured out with my social group and doing nothing wrong in a photo, my extended Peruvian family is very old-fashioned,” Novoa said. “My parents understand that I am older now, yet they prefer that I keep the photos of myself and my friends private. The problem is, nothing’s private anymore.”
Journalism senior lecturer Robert Quigley, who focuses on new media, said he understands why teenagers, specifically college students, are creating Finstas. He said because social media is the way millennial share memories, they face more challenges than previous generations. When he was young, he said almost everyone engaged in unprofessional activities as well, but since there was no way of recording it, there was less risk of consequence.
“The idea that Instagrammers don’t want to be pegged with the content they are posting is contradictory to the fact that what they post, no matter how anonymous, can always come back to them,” Quigley said.
As a professor, Quigley said he reinforces the importance of building a personal brand to students looking for internships and job opportunities.
“Companies these days are digging in pretty deep when it comes to hiring, especially in the communications industry,” Quigley said. “I have seen a business choose not to hire a candidate due to how she was portraying herself on social media. Even if it is posted on a secondary, [undercover] account, always assume that someone will find it out. Operate that way.”