What The Finsta?! The Darker World Of Teenagers And Instagram

You can’t unsee what you may discover.
09/28/2016 09:13 am ET Updated Oct 05, 2016
Finsta: a second or fake Instagram account
Finsta: a second or fake Instagram account

Finsta: noun; a fake (or second) Instagram account, primarily used to hide scandalous and overtly sexual behavior, cultivate an alter ego, and function with anonymity to troll peers.

Generally speaking, the Finsta phenomenon began the moment parents invaded Facebook... and subsequently Instagram. Prior to being usurped by this mid-40s, iPad wielding force, teens independently occupied the open channels of social media. Chronicles of debauchery, sexy outfits, best-dinners-ever, hookups, breakups, rants, road trips, beach days and everything in between were documented by a plethora of openly and unabashedly flaunted pictures and videos. But as more parents began “friending” and “following” and “posting,” so too declined the allure of these channels for teens; the platforms once synonymous with freedom, became constrained by oversight. Teenagers faced a choice: quit social media or evolve. They chose evolution... in the form of the Finsta.

The birth of the Finsta can be traced to the time period between the generational hijacking of Facebook and Instagram and the generational adoption of SnapChat. While the Finsta phenomenon is old news to teenagers, it continues to wreak havoc on their lives and create disruption in schools. Regardless, teenagers can’t seem to shake the Finsta. Originally born from the desire to carve out a space free from nosy parents, Finstas have morphed into a malicious animal capable of reducing even the most well-adjusted and mentally healthy teens to rubble.

Parents and school officials alike need to be acutely aware of Finstas and their impact on our teenagers.

Finsta Facts:

  • The world of Finsta is heavily dominated by female, teenage users (though boys use them too).
  • Finsta handles (or names) are typically sexually explicit or suggestive and somehow weave in the creator’s actual name. Finsta handles tend to be elusive enough to escape detection of searches by parents or schools, but obvious enough to be known by their peers.
  • A Finsta’s creator can be traced by an experienced user by analyzing the Finsta’s followers, posts and respective reactions and interactions with other users, such as likes, comments and regrams (reposting for other users to view).
  • Finstas often intentionally cross paths with Rinstas (real Instagrams) to launch social media cyber assaults and stir calm waters. The waters of Instagram can quickly become muddied by the saturation of Finstas.
  • Due to their anonymity, Finstas are the preferred platform for teens to methodically humiliate, ostracize and bully their peers. Although Snapchat’s content can evaporate into the cyber-abyss, ultimately it’s content is clearly tied to an authentic user, thus creating an increased threshold of accountability.

Finsta Realities:

  • Most teenage have a Finsta (although they will deny, deny, deny); while teenage girls dominate the space, boys are also active despite playing a less active role. Most teens (regardless of frequency of use) keep a Finsta account to remain privy to social hierarchy and look out for their own eventual targeting by other users.
  • It is more common to have a Finsta, than to not have a Finsta. Why? The platform allows teens to celebrate their social improprieties despite articulating or simulating remorse to parents and school officials. In other words, they are able to maintain a “sorry, I’m not sorry” persona on social media, while articulating the opposite in the public setting.
  • Although Finstas may begin with good intentions, most ultimately digress into a conduit for cyber aggression, or fan the flames of social drama in the form of likes, comments and regrams.
  • Finstas that create mental, social or emotional trauma are subject to school-related discipline if and when they eventually bleed into and disrupt the school learning environment. The lines of outside bullying and school have become increasingly blurred by social media platforms.
  • Upon discovery, teens easily (and alarmingly) convince parents the Finsta is “only a joke” or “actually never used”, and quickly change their handle (name) to advance the premise that it has been deleted. Rarely, if ever, do they actually delete their Finsta.

Finsta Dangers

  • Most teenagers will eventually experience the wrath of a Finsta bully (or bullies). The anonymous nature of these attacks is tremendously difficult to confront, process and prevent; they are swiftly executed and insidious; and their public arrival onto Instagram is extremely humiliating.
  • Even the most level-headed and socially responsible teens eventually succumb to the temptation to use their Finsta as a tool of immorality. It is important to note that the premise of the Finsta is to embrace the alter-ego; the most significant contrasts often are revealed when comparing the public persona and reputation of a teenager to that of their Finsta.
  • Finstas never actually go away. Yes, they can be deleted or buried, but screenshots and recovery measures make content live on forever.
  • Cyberbullying is one of the most pervasive and detrimental forces confronting teens today; with all eyes on Finstas and other modes of cyberbullying, the odds of the creator’s eventual exposure and accountability are significantly higher than ever.
  • Finstas expose teenage users to the underbelly of deviance where all things inappropriate are not only encouraged, but expected as a baseline standard of use; a content-benign Finsta will be rejected by peers, and the pressure to be accepted by peers incubates negative behaviors.

Finstas have become the Wild West of social media: the only rule is that there are no rules; couple that with (perceived) anonymity, angst, sexual curiosity, envy, insecurity, relationships and rivalry... and you have entered the world of Finsta. The world of Finsta is fun, until it isn’t; users are anonymous, until they aren’t; they’re harmless, until they’re malicious, and they have no impact, until their blunt force trauma takes teens out at the knees.

It is critical for parents and schools alike to become well-versed on the world of Finstas in order to better understand the mental and emotional impact of Finstas on their children and students. Proceed with caution, however, for you can’t unsee what you may discover.

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