“Social media is fake,” the 19-year-old model asserted in her last YouTube video. “I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance. Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real.”
Students at the Singapore American School can relate.
A place where teenagers and adults are enabled to share images and videos of their globetrotting adventures and social outings has now become a contrived form of identification.
Teenagers and young adults are paying careful attention to what they post on Instagram, knowing that the images they publish will be seen and potentially judged by their peers and hundreds of followers. Strategies have developed – including keeping track of “prime times” – to garner the highest number of likes. Teens have inherited an illusionary mindset that suggests the number of likes they receive equates to their self worth.
But some believe they have found a solution to this “numbers” problem.
In addition to their “real” or more widely shared account, students are creating a second Instagram, in which they limit their audience and claim to post without filter. These are called “fake Instagrams,” also known as “finstas.”
Here, not only can teenagers disregard the number of likes they receive on each photo, but they can also post as many pictures as they want in one day. That’s right – there’s no judgement for double-posts.
When asked which account they preferred, students unanimously chose their “finsta” accounts over their public accounts.
Senior Izzie Riant’s is able to publish images and videos on her finsta “without feeling the need to self-censor.” Her triller – a music-video app – posts are entertaining to her, as well as her close friends who are familiar with her humor. To Izzie, finstas portray a more accurate representation of reality than “real” Instagrams due to the extent users are able to reveal themselves to their close friends.
Similarly, sophomore Maile Wong (@maiimai.wong) said, “[I post] a bunch of inside jokes that other people would consider not funny.” Also, “you don’t have to care about getting likes, or editing. I don’t care about what I post [on my finsta].”
Senior Jamila Adams (@peanutbuttaandjamz) said, “If I don’t get a certain amount of likes [on my ‘real’ Instagram], I will feel weird about it… sometimes.” But when she posts on her finsta, she said, “I’m not doing it to please my 500 followers. I make myself laugh and don’t care about how many likes I get.”
Despite the decrease in pressure that comes with a decrease in followers, some, like senior Hannes Herrel (@hubbusiscute), still feel an expectation to perform a certain way, regardless of the number of “likes.”
“I feel a need to post on my finsta,” Hannes said. Compared to the more traditionally aesthetic posts featured on real Instagrams, posts on fake Instagrams exude a more casual setting. Hannes said the pictures he posts can be of “any weekend,” therefore, “there is [an expectation] that there should be more pictures on that than on your normal Instagram.”
Not only that, Hannes believes that “[you post] more pictures so that people can look at it and think it’s funny.”
Hannes is not the only one to reveal his intentions behind his finsta posts.
Ines Cernuda, a junior and one of the users of @keepingupwiththezoologists, said she may post “bad pictures,” or pictures that don’t necessarily decorate a newsfeed, but the account overall does “try to be funny.”
Moreover, Jamila said, “I realize how much captions matter” on her finsta, suggesting that people’s opinions of her posts still come into consideration.
Again, the notion that social media is a performance is brought into question. Why do teenagers feel the need to post images? To evoke envy? To update their close friends on their lives? To prove themselves funny?
Finstas have come to many people’s attention, including The New York Times, as a “chance to be real” on social media. But as many students have admitted, there are still intentions behind each published picture.
Senior Zack Atlas said finstas should actually act as people’s normal or “real” Instagrams. “[On your ‘finsta’,] you’re actually showing what’s going on in your daily life, whereas your ‘real’ Instagram is simply a portrait you’re painting of yourself,” said Zack.
Nonetheless, next time you publish something on your “real” Instagram, “fake” Instagram, or simply any social network, ask yourself, “Why am I posting this?”
One thing Essena O’Neill emphasized is the awareness that we “don’t need to prove [our] value on social media.” She wanted her followers to know that numbers don’t define us, and neither should people’s perceptions of our lives.