The art of the finsta

Beautiful brunches + highly edited birthday posts + rooftop bar photos + throwback baby pics + travel landscape views = a perfect Instagram …

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As much as our Instagram is supposed to reflect and share our lives with others, for many people it ends up being a curated, edited, and unrealistic screenshot of their lives. Users don’t photograph the nights spent in the library, the awkward moments, or bad hair days. Don’t get me wrong — one of the reasons that I love Instagram is because of the high quality and expectation of images, and I personally am protective over what I post. But, when it comes down to it, our Instagram feeds are not our reality.


To solve this reality gap, a growing trend among high schoolers / college students is the idea of a “finsta” or fake Instagram account. The finsta is a place for more posts, awkward photos, everyday fails, hangovers, screenshots of texts, ugly snapchats and everything in between – sometimes ugly, but also the reality of everyday life. And it’s usually private. For this age group, this might be the first, lasting social media that reflects this kind of inside look into their daily lives.

These are commonly used by female teens, with funny/ironic usernames, and are private with low double digit following of close friends.


“Principles that guide Instagram are cheerfully ignored on fake accounts: If posting more than once a day to a main account is considered something of a faux pas, it’s perfectly acceptable, on a finstagram account, to unleash a stream of mundane images, screen shots of text conversations and ugly selfies” [3]

Reflections of this age group

The finsta is mainly used by people who have grown up surrounded by social media – with 13 to 17 being the main age groups. Therefore, these teenagers have created a platform within a platform where they are no longer being judged, having to edit themselves, and can share real updates with their friends. The finsta is a product of the negative aspects of social media that we have so much discussed – trolling, bullying, judging, and how this affects the teens in this growing age group. I think an outlet like this is a positive thing where teens can feel safe and trusting with their followers, which is not the case on many platforms.

A psychologist Sandy Rea says it is a good thing for these young adults to be able to post without needing so much affirmation from their followers. She also says that it’s ok to have a public self and a private self for your closest friends and family, and a good self identity comes when these are in sync and can both exist [1].

However, a bit of danger comes from the privacy of these accounts – where they can mock their peers and say whatever they want, since it’s only shared with friends. Upon researching the finsta, many articles were titled “the dangers of finstagram” or “does your child have a finsta and what to do about it” but they generally were focused on the fact that parents couldn’t monitor the accounts, and the potential bullying of peers. However, teens interviewed by the New York Times and Huffington post that had finstas consistently talked of photos of themselves.

“My finsta is full of unfiltered, word-vomit posts.”

Is it hypocritical?

While this might be a good outlet for teens to express their true selves, it may also be seen as a little hypocritical for them, as they want a “real” portrayal on Instagram, but are not willing to break the barrier of judgement on their real account. It also might just be a way to hide their lives from their parents, but I think it is more than that. I’m curious to hear what you all think of this question.


I am also curious why Snapchat doesn’t fulfill the need for a finsta, which for me and my friends it does. With the new group feature, I can send anything and  everything of my real, ugly, daily life I need with the people I want to show it to. But in the finsta articles I have read, it is not that this is replacing the use of Snapchat – it’s just different.

So I asked one of my friends who does have a finsta why she finds it different from Snapchat. She said “well, first of all Instagram is just my favorite social media app to use. But also, I think it’s funny to go back and look through my finstas to remember the funny times between my friends and I.” So in this case, the disappearance of Snapchats are working against what these finsta users want, and is just generally a different social media experience.

Overall, I’m curious if anyone of you have a finsta and want to share your thoughts on why/how you use it, but also if you think this is a positive or a negative thing for this age group.



  1. clinecapen · ·

    Nice post. I have never heard of a finsta account. Your point about finsta having an advantage over Snapchat was interesting. I am curious how many finsta accounts are out there. I think hiding from their parents has more to do with it than anything else. Although they may be posting more I still don’t think in general that they are being more honest about their true selves.

    1. lesleyzhou · ·

      I would have to disagree. After a few of my friends asked me to follow their finsta (which I had never heard of prior…someone had to explain it to me twice), I saw a big difference in the two accounts – one was more silly and down-to-earth, the other was more I-definitely-took-4-hours-to-decide-on-a-perfect-caption. I think Erin has a point that because fintas are private and only for the eyes of close friends, they are able to reveal more about the account user than public ones.

  2. laurenmsantilli · ·

    Great idea for a blog post! I feel as though Finsta has come about with the popularity of memes and the desire to use social media to find humorous content. I don’t personally have a Finsta, and I agree with you that I use Snapchat mainly to communicate those types of images with my close friends. Finsta accounts seem to be an outlet for people to share their humor and embarrassing moments with close friends, but I can see how parents may be concerned about teens using private accounts without supervision.

  3. isabel_calo1 · ·

    Great topic for a blog post! As I was reading i was also thinking about Snapchat and why it doesn’t do the trick for these finsta users. Because even on people’s snap stories they seemed to be very purposeful and edited and are as funny or embarrassing as a finsta. It is a weird concept to want to publicly show how care free we are but also only allowing certain followers to see that side of us. Will there be other fake accounts created on Facebook and snapchat just for that purpose, or why is it so special to instagram? This post raises so great questions, nice job!

  4. lesleyzhou · ·

    I only recently learned of finsta from a few high school friends in the grades below me (so you’re definitely onto something about the 13-17 generation!) and I really didn’t understand the concept at first. Most of these finstas were private accounts so I never knew why some people all of the sudden decided to create 2 separate accounts – one of which would always included a weird-troll-like-type of username and a funny selfie profile picture whereas the other would be open to the public with formatting and colored themes deemed as “picture perfect”. But your analysis makes quite a lot of sense to me…finstas are a safe, private place for teens to post as frequently and freely as possible without having to “mess up” their Insta theme or filter what they truly want to caption. I think the reason why something similar hasn’t developed on Snapchat is because of its casual usage and the fact that ugly selfies disappear whereas Instagrams are more permanent and deletion would cause people to judge why you removed a post in the first place.

  5. Great post. First of all, prior to reading this, I thought a finstagram account was one showing a glamorous lifestyle that wasn’t real – thanks for clarifying that it is actually the opposite. I also was thinking at first how Snapchat would for me fulfill any need for a finstagram because it allows me to send goofy, unfiltered photos to my closest friends and select who receives them. But you make a valid point that unlike with Snapchat, a finstagram account documents and does not delete the content immediately after posting. I agree with the psychologist who you quoted that it is important to allow the younger generation of users the ability to have a space where they feel that the traditional rules of social media do not apply and that they have more freedom to portray their lives how they please.

  6. diiorion · ·

    I just learned about Finstagrams last year from one of my friends and I was immediately confused about the concept. I understood the differences between the two accounts – the real one and the fake one. But I didn’t understand why anyone would put in the effort to create and monitor two separate accounts. She couldn’t really explain it to me so I’m glad you wrote this post so I could finally figure it out. But I think, in a way, even a Finstagram creates a curated online persona of who a person is. While their real account could be a more glamorous self, the person is still picking the photos that are posted to the fake account, creating a more real, but still carefully crafted, image of their lives. I think especially for high schoolers that Finstagrams have a lot to do with being able to share these photos with friends and keeping them private from potential bullies. But I feel like most people, even with their friends, would potentially try to create a certain image on their fake account. Maybe the Finstagram is just an extension of the fake image portrayed on their real Instragram account.

  7. Awesome post! I really like the quote “For this age group, this might be the first, lasting social media that reflects this kind of inside look into their daily lives,” because I think it’s very true. Finstas are the one social media platform in which teenagers actually look to publish their embarrassing, uncomfortable and unflattering moments, whereas we’re usually looking to filter out anything remotely unflattering at all costs (I know I untag myself from facebook pictures I don’t like). I think in terms of snapchat, it’s still something people use to highlight the better moments in their lives–most of my feed consists of people in pretty locales, eating good food, or saying/doing something funny. While snapchat groupchats have the ability to be unfiltered, as you mentioned, I don’t think of that as social media as much–its more me communicating directly with friends. Stories to me are more of the platform in terms of what you’re analyzing here, and those are still pretty curated. Furthermore, I think the lack of text availability of snapchat plays a role in why it can’t fill the social media gap the way finstas do. On my finsta, I have the ability to write out an entire paragraph about whatever was going on in my life, something I couldn’t do on snapchat. That freedom, often riddled with humor, allows me to play into the embrace of deprecation culture that finstas have curated.

  8. Nice post (that seems to have attracted some attention). I wonder if the “finsta” is sort the opposite reaction of the carefully curated account. Because it’s supposed to be “fake,” you can put unflattering or uncomfortable material up and it won’t be taken seriously. In fact, I suspect people even make up unflattering stuff (much in the way they carefully curate posts) that to serve as camouflage for the real behaviors and opinions they can express on this account.

  9. dcardito13 · ·

    Very interesting analysis of finstas. I personally don’t have one and never really thought about them in a sense other than posting funny pictures of yourself. But you took it a step further which I thought was a really good point: real Instagram accounts highlight the perfections of life, making people feel that if their pictures doesn’t look as good or better than another follower, then they shouldn’t post it. Therefore, the birth of finstas allowed for no rules and any post to be acceptable. I feel as if people shouldn’t be as concerned as they are about what they can or can’t post, as judged by the social norms of today’s world. On the other hand, I do agree with Nolan how even though a finsta allows you to post the “uglier” version of yourself, it is still a very curated account. I really don’t ever see the social media curated accounts ever going away because people can always have these apparent identities behind the mask of a computer screen.

  10. viquezj · ·

    Finstagrams seems to be a great channel to communicate what you are really thinking and doing without having that social pressure from your followers. They are supposed to be as detached as possible from yourself to avoid hurting your reputation. However, I have a couple of friends who went abroad and decided to start their own finsta. They did not know that Instagram would associate both accounts to the same person, so in reality, it was made public for everyone to see. So, even if you are taking fiesta as a joke, it is still important to reflect upon the material that you are going to upload since it might come back to hunt you in the future.

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