Does your kid have a ‘finsta’ account? Why it’s a big deal

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“On my finsta, it’s the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a more multifaceted version of me,” said 17-year-old Esther Choi in an interview with Mic.

According to Brooke Erin Duffy, an assistant professor of communication at Cornell University, the main reason some of her students have a “finsta” account is fear of monitoring from employers.

“Such acts of digital self-surveillance make sense against the backdrop of widespread media coverage of social media gaffes,” wrote Duffy in a piece on Quartz. “We often hear about employees losing their jobs after publishing a distasteful image or a tactless tweet.”

A user’s real Instagram might have several thousand followers, but a “finsta” features a much smaller following, consisting mostly of friends and family.

Should parents worry? It’s social media, so any rules surrounding appropriate information to share is always good to remember.

But social media coach Laura Tierney tells Today parents shoudn’t fear the “finsta,” so long as they’re aware of what they post, even if it’s private.

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The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers

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…Harvard University revealed that it had rescinded admissions offers to at least 10 students who shared offensive images within what they thought was a private Facebook group chat. The students posted memes and images that mocked minority groups, child abuse, sexual assault and the Holocaust, among other things.

It is easy for parents to be left wondering, “What were they thinking?”

Over the past few years, memes — usually images or videos with text often meant to be funny or sarcastic in nature — have become one of the most popular ways, along with photos and videos, that youth communicate on social media. While some of that communication can be positive, allowing teenagers to explore their own identity development and find a sense of belonging, it can also get teens in trouble.

Sharing videos, images and memes creates the opportunity for an instantaneous positive feedback loop that can perpetuate poor decision making. In an environment where teens spend around nine hours using some form of online media every day, it doesn’t take long for them to be influenced by an “all-about-the-likes” sense of values that can potentially lead to life-altering decisions.

 

I’ve spent nearly two decades working with teens on organization and time-management in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and many teen girls tell me they have a real Instagram account (“rinsta”) for a wider audience and then keep a “finsta” (friends-only or “fake” Instagram) for their closest friends.

Finstagram – a secret Instagram account to post ugly selfies

Finstagram … post to a sympathetic audience.

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A Finstagram – or Finsta – is a fake Instagram account.

Aren’t all Instagram accounts, with their carefully curated posts and poses, in a very real sense fake? Yeah, sure, thanks Baudrillard. These are fake in the sense of secret – they are private, locked accounts set up in addition to main accounts, with access granted only to a chosen few followers.

Why? So that more natural, less effortful posts can be put up and read.

So … the fake account allows for more reality? Yes. It’s where you can post ugly selfies, private jokes, personal rants, pictures of outfits you’re genuinely seeking advice on, screenshots of funny family group texts, pictures of yourself in the middle of a good cry, that sort of thing, to a relatively sympathetic audience.

On Fake Instagram, a Chance to Be Real

Illustration by Anna Parini

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What Are Finstagrams, Exactly?

…“Finstas are private accounts that you only let your closest friends follow,” said Amy Wesson, 18, a student at Trinity College who has more than 2,700 Instagram followers and about 50 finstagram followers. “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.”

…Backstabbers aren’t unheard-of. Called “finsta snitches,” these people take screen shots of revealing posts and use them for leverage. Ms. López described a situation in her high school in which several students posted compromising photos on their fake accounts that eventually reached the inboxes of authority figures.

Splintering as Self-Preservation

Fake Instagram accounts seem to be a distinct cultural product of people belonging to a generation raised with social media and smartphones. They are used to funneling their self-expression through many platforms, where their peers provide an instant response, much of it cutting. Because of this, finstagram, which is made for an audience of people who are tuned into the user’s point of view, has become, paradoxically, the “real” Instagram.