A Tale of Two Instagrams

Author’s note: I experienced a pretty lengthy process in determining to write this piece in terms of risk of potentially exposing the people I know who might own a second account. Special thanks to everyone who shared their knowledge and experiences to make this piece happen.

If this generation can’t be identified by its ‘shortening’ of the world through social media, then it most definitely can be associated with it. Social media networks have been a boon for sharing experiences, interacting, and all that other good business. Learning to interact with people was deeply tied to my formative years, and I believe it has made me both a better and worse person simultaneously (not for any of the bullshit reasons old people complain about though about “short attention spans” or whatever baby boomers shake their canes about).

However, I come not to praise social media, but to bury it. Until recently, it used to be an amazing series of spaces for one specific age group of people —millennials. We roamed free and uninhibited, like the great buffalo on the American plains…Until the older generations arrived on the scene. For those of us less tech-savvy neonates, the end had began before it even started; adults got wind of Facebook’s popularity in our middle school years, and set a precedent of online helicopter parenting and ground-rules for account ownership. As more and more social networks and apps were released, it was just a matter of time for a lot of neonates before their parents caught up with them on there, and they had to begin acting prim and proper there as well. Even when parents stopped demanding the rights to access to private communications between individuals, the olds continued to bear down with an ever-present, Big Brother-style form of surveillance.

I for one do subscribe to the ideology of a ‘clean’ online footprint (within the framework of bullshit of your potential to get/keep a job based upon what you post — which I don’t agree with, but is our reality); that if you’re going to leave your social media accounts viewable to the public, that they be ‘professional’, and for anything you intend to be more,..lets say, ‘personal’, on, you should consider measures of concealing your identity or setting your account to a more restricted viewership. However, for many people this has never been an option — until now.

Enter the ‘finstagram’, finsta for short– the portmanteau of ‘fake’ or ‘false’ instagram. They’re a second account created pseudonymously for a variety of reasons and uses, but primarily to have a sort of private social media network, away from the prying eyes of family, employers, coworkers, and so forth. People own these accounts for the freedom of expressing themselves however they want without subscribing to social pressures. Posting thirty memes a day — why not. Using it as an avenue to complain about your scumbag ex you’re still in love with — cheers! Posting outtakes, and other photos that don’t match your regular instagram’s aesthetic — go for it. Overcoming body image issues by posting yourself wearing and doing whatever you want — go nuts. Posting yourself at a party holding a red solo cup — the world is yours. Its all about the ability to express ourselves without the haunting specter of being one online search away from being jobless, homeless, etc. While that may be an extreme case, the ability to not concern oneself with the content of posts and just execute is a liberating and powerful outlet for people of this age, with or without existential threats.

However, before you run off armed with this knowledge to create a finsta (or destroy them), please do yourself a favor and read the following.

Parents: teach your kid to secure their social media for the sake of professionalism, give it a once-over, but do everyone (including yourselves) a favor and leave them alone. How much shit did you get into without your parents’ watching your every move? Further, your well-meaning policing online behavior with threats of cutting off school funding, kicking someone out of the house, etc. and tracking them by GPS creates quiet animosity at best, and at worst, deep-rooted anxieties and issues with trust between you and your child. Especially if they’re at college, affording them the freedom of not worrying about whether or not they have a second instagram account is a sign of respect and trust with them that can go a long way, especially if you don’t mention it to them.

To millennials: To finstagram or not to finstagram is your prerogative. If you do finstagram, do yourself a favor and do the following to secure it from prying eyes. All of these steps combined are overkill, but are relatively simple to do.

-SET IT TO PRIVATE obviously. Why am I writing this? If you haven’t done this you must enjoy the rush of being found out.

–DO NOT USE YOUR GOVERNMENT NAME in the description, account name, description, etc. Same goes for your instagram account name — you want it to be hard to find you.

–DO NOT use your likeness in the avatar.

–DO NOT make a written record of your finstagram’s existence on social media or your phone. If somebody wants to follow it, let them know in media that expires.

–BLOCK ANYONE who would react negatively to it and you don’t trust entirely; siblings, parents, bosses, coworkers, family members, and also mutual friends between anyone I just listed and you. When in doubt, block. This is to make sure you don’t appear in peoples’ ‘discover’ feeds or whatever instagram calls the feature of algorithmically finding people to follow.

Further, you can experiment with avoiding interaction with peoples’ ‘real’ instagrams in terms of likes, returning follows, etc. I’m not 100% if this can factor into the Instagram algorithm, but it will make you less visible; better safe than sorry.