Have you ever felt overexposed on Instagram? If your account’s public, chances are you’ve had moments of doubt before sharing holiday beach snaps or a blurry nightclub selfie, lest a future employer or potential date judges you for it.
This pressure has led to the rise of 'Finstagram'. No, don’t worry, there’s not a new trendy app we all need to download, it’s much more low-tech than that.
'Finstas' are fake Instagram accounts where users post more intimate, realistic snapshots of their lives and have the freedom to experiment without having to worry about likes. The usual etiquette and rules of Instagram don’t apply in this private sphere – posting random streams of screenshots, memes and ugly selfies is perfectly acceptable. How liberating.
People these days often remove posts on their real Instagrams ('Rinstagrams') if they don’t get enough likes, but the point of a Finstagram is to showcase the real you, rather than keeping up appearances. On these fake accounts then, paradoxically, it seems people are more willing to be real.
And these posts are for close friends’ eyes only, with follower numbers purposely kept low, often in the low double digits. But there’s still a risk of having your private space infiltrated by unwelcome intruders, 'finsta snitches', who upload screenshots of your private posts to public forums. They key is to trust your followers and remove those ex-partners and frenemies as soon as the relationship sours.
The Finstagram trend began around two years ago among teenage members of digitally native Gen Z, many of whom viewed social media as a burden that needed to be tightly managed, rather than a boon in their lives.
In a world where your popularity is being judged 24/7 and you’re getting instant feedback via the smartphone in your pocket, it’s easy to see why many consider Finstagrams to be a welcome relief.
“You post things you wouldn’t want people other than your friends to see, like unattractive pictures, random stories about your day and drunk pictures from parties,” Amy Wesson, 18, a student at Trinity College in the US, with thousands of Instagram followers and about 50 Finstagram followers, told the New York Times.
Another teenager told US Elle she used her Finstagram to protect her personal Rinstabrand. "There's a carelessness and candour that my rinsta does not have," she said. "My rinsta is the filtered me – it's how I often want people to perceive me. It's where I look good in my pictures, I'm happy, and I'm having fun. My finsta also shows that, sometimes even more than my rinsta because it's so genuine, but it also shows me sad, scared, drunk, or embarrassed."
But the craze isn’t confined to social media-obsessed teens anymore. It’s gone mainstream, with people in their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s now going to the trouble of creating second accounts. A quick poll around the office confirmed that Finstagram accounts have become particularly common in recent months, popping up faster than Kendall gets likes.
“A couple of my friends have started to use secondary private Instagram accounts,” one Londoner in her early 30s told Refinery29. “I took them following me to mean I was allowed to follow them back, so I did. I think I prefer their private posts. They're more candid, random and opinionated than their 'curated' ones and therefore much more enjoyable.”
Another woman in her late 20s told us she’s noticed the trend taking off among some of London’s young creatives, but she’s not convinced Finstas are truly necessary unless you’re a public figure.
"Perhaps I'm missing a trick but I don't understand the secondary private account trend,” she said. “Maybe if you're a celebrity it makes sense to have a more personal place where you can share candid images and ironic posts with your nearest and dearest, but if you're a normal civilian I'm afraid I don't understand the need for two accounts.
“But this is coming from someone who posts once a month on average so I probably shouldn't judge."
With more and more of us willing to broadcast our flaws and flaunt our imperfections publicly – body-positive models such as Emily Bador being a prime example – and developing a thicker skin as a result, it seems there remains a need for safe spaces free from the prying public gaze.