We Asked a Teen About Fake Instagrams and Crying Selfies
02.08.17
Ask a Teen Man Repeller stephenson_manrepeller_askateen_finstagram

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.

Read Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein.

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.

Processed with VSCO with k2 preset

Follow Kate Glavan on InstagramΒ @kateglavan. This interview has been edited for clarity. Illustration by Meghann Stephenson, follow her on Instagram @meghannfinley.

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  • Ryan

    Yes, I love these teen posts!!!πŸ‘–πŸ‘©πŸΌβ€πŸ’»πŸ‘ πŸ’–πŸ‘„πŸ‘‘πŸ‘“πŸΉ

  • Abby

    I thought I was fairly young and hip, but I was completely unfamiliar with the concept of a “finsta”. Getting old…

  • Caro A

    Oh my god, I love this. ALso, holler, MN love to hippo campus and teens reading Peggy Orenstein?? Amazing. Kate! Keep going!!!

  • tmm16

    My friends and I have finstas and we’re all 21-23. It’s just a fun way for us to post funny drunk photos, texts from friends/guys/embarrassing things we’ve said, and ugly photos of ourselves for humor. it’s fun! I think everyone should have one.

  • Bailey Stark

    Finsta is a big deal between me and my friends lol, we mostly rant about our roommates and post embarrassing stories that have recently happened to us. Its a great way to de stress and laugh!

  • Sarah

    But memes and crying selfies and more real depiction of oneself, that’s exactly what scariest_bug_ever does on her account which is public and she’s definitely not a teen. Her account is very popular and a lot of people are imitating her Instagram “style” lately so I’m really skeptical about “finsta” being a teen phenomenon!

  • YES SKAM my absolute favorite show at the moment

    • Jenny Ekman

      I love Skam too and want all my non-norwegian friend to see it. Where do you watch it in the US? Is it available with subtitles somewhere?

      • there are so many fans of the show that many of the watchers who speak both norwegian and english add subtitles!! if you just google “watch skam with english subtitles” there’s a lot of links that’ll lead you to a google drive folder w/ all the eps with subtitles πŸ™‚

        • Jenny Ekman

          Thank you! Never thought someone would have to tell me to ‘google it’, ha ha πŸ™‚

  • Taylor Coil

    The use case for Finstas sounds like a modern Xanga, but with more privacy. Which is a good thing, I think, for the current teen’s future self. I don’t know about y’all, but I was pretty mortified when I found my 14-year-old ramblings as an adult, which were completely public on Xanga 😳

    • Carson McCrullers

      I still can’t delete my teen Xanga. The idea of an industrious Googler discovering 15-17 year old me is basically why I can never run for office.

  • My son has a couple finstas, and I am allowed access when I behave myself and not bombard him with all sorts of mom-spirational Instacrap or use emojis. Yes, there will be regret at what was posted. I am grateful you can’t go online and read my teen thinking of 1974. You can go in my basement and open up some mildewed spiral bound journals, but only one at a time, please. It’s a little room.

    • Suzan

      This is adorable πŸ˜€

      And I’m also happy that there are no digital remnants of my teen years!

  • Sierra Mayhew

    Me and all of my friends made finstas together and became hooked on them immediately. It makes me laugh that adults are so scared of them because they really are harmless. We just use them to share things that are more private with everyone!! Now that Instagram has become a place to share your highlights only, it’s nice to be able to remind yourself that you’re human in a different setting. Long live finsta!

  • Val123

    So no one is worried about the state of our future if teens can’t sleep until they finish a feed scroll?

    • June2

      I know, so The Circle by Dave Eggers…yikes

  • Lola

    I love these teen columns so much (as I am a teen as well). It’s incredible to see all of these teenage girls who are taking a stand on the issues they care about and how MR is showcasing that! Btw how do you guys find these girls for the interviews? <3

  • Gina Fuchs

    hippo campus!! love it

  • The fake Insta seems to be the REAL insta, no? If it’s where they’re posting their truest and most raw emotions/feelings/musings, I’d venture that that is actually the truest expression of themselves.

    • true, but since it’s a private, intimate conversation, I’d venture that calling it the fake one is a naming device probably meant to deflect attention from it.

    • Jahluv Moregam

      So just because i post emotionally that’s means it’s true…

  • I think this is the same as saying there are conversations you would have in public and there are things you would not discuss with more than a select few in your life. Just the Gen Z digital version of that. Makes a lot of sense and as someone who still (at 24) doesn’t process emotions very well, I might try this. Especially the crying selfie. Seems cathartic. And I love that she goes back to look at them with new perspective, and either gives herself a pat on the back or realises it really wasn’t that bad. The kids are alright. πŸ™‚

  • Jenelle

    So quick question, if “finstas” are used to basically just chat with your closest friends and share intimate information, why don’t they just do that in a group text? Do teens not group text? I basically feel like that’s what my adult friends and I do – send each other screenshots or cute pictures or vent via group text bu that way it’s not on social media.

  • Mika Deshmukh

    YES watch Skam!! The way the show is structured and new “episodes” are released is so ! cool!

  • Haley Nahman

    Omg. I love teens!!!

  • I’m 25, and I’ve never felt so uncool. A Finsta? I just text my friends when I feel like shit. I think I’m officially old school. *Sigh*

  • Andrea Raymer

    Literally sent this to my cousin to tell me how true this is. She thinks its hilarious how fascinated I am with teenager social habits.

    also, hi jenny, if you read this since i sent it to you.

  • For some reason I feel like this is kind of genius and I kind of want one now…

  • Miss J

    I love reading and/or hearing how today’s youth thinks.

  • Erica

    my mom requested to follow my finsta. hard pass, but she understood why once i explained it to her (lol)

  • I’m only 21 and I feel so out of touch with teens xD I also remember what I was like and feel embarrassed lol…

    I can’t stand teenage boys. They sucked when I was a teen and still do! I just wanna gather all the teenage girls into a big hug with a blanket and cake and protect them from boys. I wish someone had been there to do that for me when I was a teen <3 teen gals if you're reading this… hopefully you are smarter than I was as a teen and put yourself first no matter what! And make the most of liking cheap booze… when you get old(er) your tastebuds only want expensive wine *sob*.

  • I love hearing about what teens are doing today! Finsta seems like group texts between my closest friends! I am a whatsapp girl all the way πŸ™‚