The Finsta Is Dead
Once upon a time, everyone had finstas (“fake instas”). Where your real Instagram account (your “rinsta”) was where you would post cool vacation pics and posts of you out shopping in the city with your besties to impress the rest of the world, your finsta was an exclusive club, full of your most embarrassing, weirdest, edgiest content, only open to those in your most elite circle.
According to Urban Dictionary, a finsta is “a spam Instagram account where people post what they are too afraid to post on [a] real account.” Finstas were almost always set to private and would be full of memes, complaints, embarrassing stories, questions for the person’s friends, etc. As explained on The Today Show, the finsta could also be used to hide content from parents or other adults. Some people even had multiple finstas for different types of friends. There were even finstas for different friend groups. My twin brother and I even had a “twinsta” (twin finsta).
Although finstas had been around for several years prior, in my experience they skyrocketed in popularity around 2017. All of a sudden, everyone had a finsta. But flash forward to three years later, and although a few dedicated Instagrammers have kept their finstas up and running, most people have forgotten about them and/or don’t use them anymore. So what happened?
One reason is that the novelty of the finsta eventually began to fade. When people first started making them, like any other trend, everyone wanted to join in on the fun. Because they were often named with puns on the user’s name or random inside jokes, they weren’t easy to find just by searching —you had to be “in the loop.” Getting a follow request from a finsta was an invitation to follow it back —like an invitation into an exclusive club. They were cool and funny. Even celebrities began to create finstas. But after a while, posts of someone’s dinner or them complaining about homework began to become a little boring. Maintaining a finsta that people would actually find interesting — and finding things such as funny videos or memes to post on it — became a bit of a chore.
It’s also possible that people began to consider more deeply what content they were putting out into the world. Valeriya Safronova explains in a 2015 article for The New York Times the existence of “finsta snitches” — people who would “take screenshots of revealing posts and use them for leverage.” Some people began to implement higher standards for their followers, deleting people they didn’t trust or weren’t close enough with.
But the most significant reason is probably that other social media apps have developed features that can replace the finsta. Today, many use TikTok to post finsta-like content (although in video form), because the app is based around the “For You” page and not who you’re following — so it can be very difficult to find someone’s TikTok page unless they tell you about it. Even Instagram itself has developed “Close Friends,” the option to post Instagram Stories to a specific list of people which you can choose, instead of your entire followers list.
But the Snapchat Private Story is probably now the closet thing to the finsta. Previously, the Snapchat Story feature only allowed you to create 24-hour stories which would be seen by all of your Snapchat followers (and on Snapchat, people often have tons of people added, some they don’t even know personally).
But then Snapchat launched Private Stories, in which you can choose specific friends who are able to see them, as opposed to everyone who follows you. Additionally, while Instagram was previously better for text because it offered captions, Snapchat has since expanded the number of text options it has, as well as stickers, filters, and other features. Snapchat stories can also be easier to maintain, as there isn’t a like/comment feature, you can add people directly, and it’s easier to quickly upload and view things on Snapchat than on Instagram — especially TikToks, which have become popular features on many private stories. There’s also ways to create private stories with only one person on it, without the person knowing that (something you can’t do on Instagram).
People like to have fun and be creative with their private stories — there are even lists of name ideas for them, inspired by popular teen slang and memes.
In the meantime, it seems that the type of content people post on their Instagram has changed as well. In other words, what might’ve once been demoted to a finsta can now be posted on someone’s real insta (rinsta). While this movement towards more authentic, casual feeds has been in the making for some time, it was fueled by the rise of Instagram challenges during quarantine. Additionally, in the wake of the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd, posting political content (and/or that about social issues) on Instagram is not only accepted, it is encouraged.
The way people interact online, and the types of content they post, is constantly changing in the modern world. And just because the finsta may be dead, doesn’t mean Instagram is no longer used for authentic content. In fact, the opposite may be true. Recently, I’ve seen an explosion of Instagram accounts used to showcase creativity — from clothing businesses to photography and art portfolios to travel accounts. With people now using the platform to share their beloved passions and creations, maybe Instagram has become realer than ever.