“How would you describe your Finsta in one word?”
Finsta – a catchy portmanteau for “Fake Instagram” – is the new kid on the social media trend block. This is a secondary, private account that an Instagram user shares with a close group of friends. Unfiltered, messy, irrelevant: there are no rules to a finsta. A “Real Instagram” account – you guessed it right, rinsta – on the other hand, is a carefully curated scrapbook for the world to see. If I haven’t lost you on the lingo yet, think about a finsta as a sort of personal diary of one’s life, shared with a small circle of followers. While an increasing percentage of Indians are trying to find the balance between their “real” and “fake” -selves on instagram, it’s interesting to see how the growing culture of finsta plays into our relationship with social media as a society.
Why make a finsta in the first place? Kirti Narain, a 22-year old photographer made it to build a clear divide between her work and her personal life. “Since my other profile is just a work-based profile, I thought showing my face with all the other commercial photos won’t be a good look.” On a similar note, 23-year-old artist Maitreyi Bhatia calls her finsta as a sort of playground where she can post whatever she wants, because, “because whilst I am an artist, I feel like my life and identity is so much more than just my profession.” In a time where an Instagram account is often an artist or an influencer’s primary portfolio, this segregation is easy to understand. It’s the good old-fashioned rule of keeping business and pleasure apart – and there are no qualms about the growing nature of Instagram as a business. Nineteen-year old Srijan Mehrotra, who calls his finsta “zazzy”, wanted the admission department of his future colleges to steer clear of his “memelike and socially unacceptable pictures”. Ever since then, his main account has remained decent. Sometimes, though, it’s as simple as having too many followers on your main account and finding a closer circle to express your authentic self. Maybe this sounds familiar: with many relatives and family friends following a main account, it often becomes necessary to uphold the conservative values that are expected of you on your social media. Twenty-year-old Priya* admits to feeling stifled by this account, and her finsta is a way to make sure there is a space away from these constraints where she can be herself.
How we interact with social media is often dictated by why we use it in the first place. Perhaps I want to use Instagram to express myself, but the presence of employers, family, clients – or even just a general reluctance to ruin my perfect three-grid Instagram aesthetic with a goofy picture of my roommate – makes it difficult. The finsta culture was born out of perhaps one of the better things we demand from social media: a platform express ourselves as we are. In 22-year-old Lekha Rathnam’s images of her naked self-portraits, her dogs and sometimes dead pigeons on her finsta, she’s able to do just that. For many others like her, a finsta helps stay true to their identity on social media. Like Priya tells us, “sometimes, it feels like I keep this account as a space for myself rather than for my closest friends.”
Social Media Anxiety is real. Think about it: every time you post something on Instagram, do you ask yourself what will people think of me? Am I being the best version of myself? Often, your newsfeed, too, is a source of bursts of anxious thoughts: I wish I could travel as much as her. He got married already?! Am I doing enough to save the world? On most days, you don’t even realize it. Often, a complete social media break is great help – and at other times, a finsta account does the trick. While some users admit that the close-knit following on a finsta helps them escape the anxiety of approval, others experience relief when they don’t have to painstakingly choose the perfect picture to post from their gallery.
The soothe of a finsta lies not only in the ease of posting content, but also being able to filter your newsfeed. “Growing my follower base on my main leaves me feeling anxious and guilty for everything under the sun from climate change to Syria to the plastic straws to every single topic there is – and while I do feel like human beings need to take responsibility for this, personally I feel like having it in my face 24/7 leaves me feeling very unsettled and upset,”, Maitreyi confesses. “On my finsta, though, I only follow artists and people who inspire me and I feel much more positive when I’m scrolling through that account. Anything creative calms me down so scrolling through that newsfeed is a far more positive experience for me and my mental health since I’m prone to anxiety.”
Modern social media problems call for modern social media solutions. A finsta is something of this sort: a way to use social media to escape the anxiety of the same. While the irony is not lost on me, it’s also a refreshing way of going about using and consuming social media. I often welcome posts from my friends’ finsta accounts - it’s a great way to get an unfiltered, authentic slice of their life. Perhaps the culture of finstas, like many other social media trends, is fleeting – but with more and more users opting to use social media to be their own true selves, one thing is for sure: social media will always find new ways to surprise us.
*Name changed to retain anonymity.
Feature image illustration by Akanksha Bhatt for Homegrown
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