In favor of the Finsta

Social media is full of unrealistic expectations, and perhaps no platform more exemplifies this than Instagram. If I had a dollar for every time my aimless Instagram scrolling was interrupted by a sponsored picture of some fitness guru’s mirror selfie, I could easily pay off all four years of my Lawrence tuition. From fashion icons to gym rats, it seems like everyone is finding ways to profit off their follower count. The “finstagram” is a stress-free response to this increasingly-difficult-to-navigate world of social media.

If I was walking down College Ave. and some sports-bra-clad woman was yelling at me to buy her detox tea, I would probably call the police. On Instagram, however, this is totally normal behavior. The line between advertising and social media is becoming increasingly blurred. The more appealing your posts are, the more followers you gain; the more followers you have, the more companies will pay you to strategically place their products in your photos. In this new, explosively growing industry, there’s no regulation on advertisements. Instagram stars have no obligation to tell you when they’re selling a product. “Love my new leggings!” seems like a harmless enough post, but the advertiser behind it has spent countless hours planning the hashtags, lighting and angle, not to mention the time spent adding edits and filters to the picture. As Instagram stars compete for followers and sponsorships, the photos become more extreme. Much like Kylie Jenner’s transformation, the thigh gaps are growing wider, the lips are getting plumper and the silicone-enhanced breasts are getting bigger.

Although this is all in an effort to profit off product placement, the result is that millions of adolescents and young adults are being bombarded with impossible body images and lifestyle standards every time they check their phones. The trillion-dollar fashion industry and billion-dollar makeup industry have this system figured out. In order to sell a product, you first need to convince the public why they need your product. Nobody needs to have a larger butt or more defined abs, so advertisers need to set that as the standard. When the standard is unattainable, social media becomes a dangerous place where it seems impossible to succeed.

Early Instagram was a photo-editing application, with a variety of cheesy filters to choose from to make your photos look more dramatic, professional or flattering. Today, it is the leading platform for the creation of unreachable expectations. Even if, like most of us, you are not trying to profit off your Instagram, the pressure is still high to meet these expectations on your own Instagram account. This is where the “finstagram” comes in.

A “finstagram”, or “finsta” for short, is a combination of the words “fake” and “Instagram”. A “finsta” is a secondary Instagram account, usually kept on private and only available to your close friends. It is a place to post anything you want — unflattering selfies, memes and pictures of you partying, embarrassing photos of your friends. Whereas the social rules for what to post on your real Instagram can be pretty strict — I often find myself wondering if a picture is worthy of Instagram status, on the other hand, there are no rules for what to post on your “finsta.”

You might be wondering, if Instagram is so toxic, why not just delete your account? It might seem silly, but I like having an Instagram and a “finsta.” All of us have several sides of us that we show to different people. My regular Instagram feels like a highlight reel — cool trips I have taken, rock climbing shots, pictures of my dance team performances. I love all of these things, but that does not fully describe me. On my “finsta”, I can document how bloated I look after eating an entire pizza, post too many pictures of my dogs and take a million selfies without worrying how people will view me. My friends already know me as a multi-faceted human being. They know I am cool and weird and energetic and lazy and a ton of other things. The “finsta” is for them, and it is also for me — a true photo reel of who I am, unfiltered. Instead of shunning social media, which can end up feeling even more isolating, I recommend the “finstagram.” Equal parts esoteric and unimpressive, the “finstagram” might not be a perfect solution, but it is the best one I have found.