A versatile new trend among teens on Instagram has allowed them to break free of the app's increasingly image-driven constraints.
noun / fɪn.stə.ɡræm/ A fake Instagram account where people, typically girls, post funny and embarrassing photos and videos that wouldn’t make it on to their real Instagram.
When did Instagram become so fake? As the app has grown, so has the pressure on its users to create seemingly “perfect” profiles. The unwritten rules of the platform dictate you can’t post too much, and what you do share must be impeccable (even if it’s just another photo of your brunch). That’s not to say the service isn’t home to interesting accounts and talented people (not to mention serving as an essential social network for keeping up with friends). Nonetheless, an aura of inauthenticity pervades the app, and it’s only gotten worse.
Who’s to blame for this gradual decline into superficiality? Did all the “rich kid” accounts cause everyone else to commit to only the glossiest images in their phone’s library? Perhaps it’s the overly stylized content shared by celebs and so-called influencers (social media stars, or wannabes), or the sponsored posts (ads parading as regular photos) that insult our collective intelligence.
Amidst the faux photos, a certain group of users are bucking the trend, albeit in private. The rise of the “Finstagram” (aka fake Instagram, or “Finsta”) among teen users could be viewed as a reaction to the absurd nature of the service in its current state. People, mainly girls in their late teens, are creating these secondary profiles to share posts that don’t fit the strict, self-imposed, parameters applied to their main account.
These can include photos deemed unattractive for their real Instagram (or “Rinstagram”), private jokes only their BFs would understand, ugly selfies, screenshots of conversations, and mundane moments unfit for a filter. Teens treat their “Finstas” as a place to shed inhibitions and share frequently. The accounts are set to private and followers are kept to a minimum, that means no family and no boys in some cases.
A tale of two platforms
The trend tells a tale of two platforms: the real Instagram and the realest Instagram. Here’s how one teen girl described her exhaustive Instagram routine for her primary account: “First you have to edit the picture, make sure no one in your friend group is already posting it, send it to your friends for approval, think of a clever caption, and then post it at a time of day that will hopefully afford you the most amount of likes,” the 18-year old told Elle.” Yes, it’s insane … but this is what girls do,” she added.
On the other hand, a teen girl of the same age shares a “Finstagram” with her younger sister, and both use it to exchange photos of lizards, according to the New York Times. It may sound like a sweet yet silly pastime, but it betrays a deeper connection with the fake account than the so-called “real” Instagram.
The platform itself seems to recognize how it’s being used, which may explain the reasoning behind its recent updates. Over the past several months, Instagram has copied Snapchat (an app that encourages constant activity by reassuring users their snaps will remain private or temporal) with its own version of Stories. It followed that with the rollout of live video: another form of expression, only in real-time.
And, on February 22, it released a photo-album function that allows users to dump a set of images and videos as one post. All three actions have been met with a mixed reception, but they seem to be an attempt to tap into this suppressed desire (at least among younger users) to share more, and without constraints.
However — with such a versatile approach — updates or no updates, the teens of Instagram will manage to express themselves in one way or another. Just don’t go expecting an invite to the exclusive party.