Finstagrams, known among the kids as “finstas,” are fake Instagram accounts with restricted-follower access that teens use to post the stuff they don’t want everyone else to see. The concept freaks some people/parents/school administrators out; with no magical because-I’m-an-adult-and-I-said-so unlock code, there’s no way to gain entry to a finsta unless granted. Perhaps even scarier is the thought that your kid has one and you don’t know about it. As with…literally anything, though, there are the extremes (where concern may be warranted) and then there is the innocent — in this case, the digital-age equivalent of our notebook diaries and password-guarded LiveJournals or private emo MySpace accounts.
I reached out to resident teen Kate Glavan to explain the mystery. It seemed second-best to requesting a follow.
Apparently teens have fake instagrams. Why is this a thing?
Teens create fake Instagrams for their close group of friends to follow. Finstas, for me, include crying posts (after taking a Calculus test), outfit posts when I need advice while thrifting, or more serious posts about my mental state and how I’m doing on rough school days. Finstas are full of screenshots of funny family group texts, reactions to celebrity news and memes about something Donald Trump did.
What’s the point? Why can’t you just combine the two?
I look at my normal Instagram as a professional setting that anyone can see; my finsta is for my *angsty* teen feelings and ugly selfies that I snap in my Snuggie with my cat. I don’t want the whole world to be able to see pictures of me with my retainer in, but I like posting funny things for my friends.
What is the selection process like for who gains access to each account?
Well, fake instas are very private and secretive. I guess the way I vet people who request to follow my finsta is if 1) I talk to them on a weekly basis 2) I feel comfortable with them seeing my more raw, emotional rants and 3) I trust they won’t share what I post to my finsta with others.
Which account is more authentic, and which one is more for show?
My real Instagram is certainly more for show, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily a bad thing. I don’t intentionally try to lead people on to some perfect life with my regular Instagram, even though it’s full of better quality, edited photos. My regular Instagram is more of a creative place that I’m confident to show to the world. My finsta is full of unfiltered, word-vomit posts.
I guess it’s all about first impressions. I’d rather someone see me in a cool pair of embroidered jeans than a picture of me walking my cat on a leash. Yes, my cat.
Which one would you rather your parents see?
Regular. My parents already know that I’m a weird and over-dramatic teen.
Can you explain Teen Instagram etiquette to me? Comments, liking — are those activities mandatory? What if you miss something?
There’s a strong pressure to comment and like everyone’s posts. Birthday posts are another mandatory concept. You aren’t considered a “good friend” if you don’t give someone a birthday shout-out on your Twitter or Instagram. Teens get mad at their friends if they don’t get an Instagram post on their birthday. Twitter shout-outs are given more generously because they don’t require a good picture of you with your friend. But the unspoken feeling about Twitter shout-outs is that you just weren’t cool enough to make it on their Instagram profile. At least, that’s what the rules seem to be at at my school.
I don’t think people notice if you miss their posts, since most teenagers have at least 300 followers to keep up with. However, I still waste a significant amount of time trying to get to the bottom of all of my social media feeds. I stay up at night to get through everyone’s posts. Otherwise, I get paranoid and can’t fall asleep.
How do you/your friends/teens in general feel about the fact that in 10 years you’ll have this digital diary to look back on that doesn’t just chronicle your photos and thoughts, but also shares them with anyone who follows?
It’s definitely weird since there are some distant adults, fairly young girls and completely random people who have access to every life moment I publish. I overthink if pictures are “insta-worthy” or not; I’d say most teens do. We want to appear artsy and interesting because there’s a pressure to have an aesthetically-pleasing feed. Beyond what others view my Instagram as, I really like the idea of Instagram as a “digital diary,” one where I can track what I was up to and what my idea of beauty was at the time. I could post something in five years that I wouldn’t think of as “good enough” or “artsy enough” to make it on Instagram now, and vice versa.
Can you explain crying selfies?
I uploaded a crying selfie to my finsta just before this because I was feeling overwhelmed with school. I post them for like five minutes and then delete them, just to get my feelings published. It validates your feelings, I guess? Crying selfies make me feel like someone is listening to my problems, which somehow equates to people caring about me. I feel better when I take a selfie while sobbing, privately post it on finsta and come back to see it in a week or so. At that point, I can reflect on how I overcame a tough moment, or recognize I was just exaggerating that my life was over after I got B+ on a test.
Wild card! What song should we listen to? What show should we watch? What book should we read?
Listen to “Way It Goes” by Hippo Campus. Hippo Campus is made up of four Minnesota boys who I’ve been lucky enough to see perform live from the start of their careers. It feels so special to watch people from my home get bigger and bigger.
Watch the Norwegian TV show Skam. It’s about a group of dramatic high schoolers with impeccable fashion sense. It’s so fun to watch them doing their homework on a Google Doc or listening to The 1975…while I’m doing the same.
Last q: What’s the big teen fashion trend right now?
A lot of girls are wearing oversized tees or sweatshirts, then dressing them up with skirts and fishnets or flare pants and cool boots.