“Finstas” breed realistic, healthy self-presentation

I ’m very taken with Instagram. I don’t really understand it, but there’s something very satisfying to me about editing and sharing photos and videos. Curating my Instagram is like tending a little garden: I have no affinity for botany, but damn if I’m not going to make my neighbors think I do. I never had a real interest in photography or digital scrapbooking until they became a platform to showcase who I am. I love that Instagram, in some ways, gives me control over how people perceive me; I can convey to people how I like to joke, what I like to do and what I like about myself. Sometimes I can’t articulate those things very well in person. I like that social media gives me extra time to think about how to respond to someone and how to present myself in a given situation.

Of course, this also causes some of us to be exceedingly disingenuous online, presenting a cookie-cutter, uncontroversial picture of ourselves, which brings me to my point: The “finstagram” trend is a beautiful thing, because it’s a rebellion against rose-tinted social media. “Finstagrams,” for those of you who are more respectable than I am and don’t know the meaning of the word, are secondary Instagram accounts (“fake Instagrams”) on which people post more accurate, satirical portrayals of their life, such as a selfie with a self-deprecating caption. “Finstas” (as they are abbreviated) have actually made it cool to delegitimize whatever persona you’ve crafted for yourself online.

I have one. It’s not particularly funny or alternative, but it does serve as a diary for me, and I think it does the same for a lot of people. It bolsters the feeling that you’re not alone in your bad days and that no one looks cute all the time. (Well, some do, and they do exist. Thanks to Instagram I’ll always be able to freely compare myself to them, should I choose to do so…which I do, because for some sadistic reason it feels good to take a hit to the ego and just look at pretty people and their lavender-and-matcha-painted pages).

Via these little online diaries, people discuss the more mundane content that doesn’t make it to their primary accounts: a bad sexual encounter, a weird relationship with mom, a Snapchat video of a friend eating pad thai with her foot, something—or some latte—that tasted better than it looked and just didn’t photograph well, the daily trials of living with mental illnesses… That sort of stuff. Mundane, not flashy.

But even so, this sort of content is really cool. We’re part of a generation that’s seeking to normalize aspects of life previously shunned from the public sector. We’re not only learning to accept the aspects of our life that we consider undesirable, but also to become comfortable enough with ourselves to share them with others. And for a lot of people, finsta-culture has helped them to create a safe space for themselves in which they and their friends and followers can have a dialogue about politics, health, society, etc., away from the usual deluge of internet harassment and spam.

And better yet, finstas get people talking about their feelings. Whether feelings can be trendy or not is a whole other can of worms I’d like to get into at some point, because I suspect that even with finstas people tailor their content to match moods and attitudes that are en vogue, but in general I think that this form of “oversharing” is a positive thing. If nothing else, we can at least remind ourselves that we are not alone in being imperfect, and that we’re pretty cool for being able to hold down such great rinstas (real Instas) when our lives are actual messes.

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