What are fake Instagram accounts used for?

Everything we publish to Instagram undergoes a rigorous approval process before it’s posted – and if you disagree, you’re lying. Is the lighting right? What hashtags do I use? Does this post fit the rest of my feed? Is this how I want to present myself?

Just like the other 500 million perfectionists who use Instagram daily, for every single photo uploaded, there are another 50 that don’t make the cut. But to save these substandard pictures from spending a lifetime lost inside an iPhone, users are doubling up with finstas.

A portmanteau of ‘fake’ and ‘insta’, finstas are secondary Instagram accounts used to share material deemed unfit for one’s primary or rinsta (‘real’ + ‘Insta’) account. From tactless memes to embarrassing photos you don’t want your dad to see, anything goes on finstas, allowing you to express yourself away from widespread scrutiny. Finstas are typically private accounts with only 10 to 20 followers; usually close friends or family who aren’t fussed about less-than-perfect photos. It’s possible to own a public finsta under an alias, too. Without a name or discernible photo attached to the account, it’s almost impossible to tell who it belongs to.

While influencers, brands and celebrities constantly compete for followers’ attention, finstas offer liberation from mainstream culture without the FOMO. A second profile allows you to share those unfiltered selfies, swap screenshots of recently unlocked Egg Inc achievements, follow accounts like @dogs_infood or @youdidnoteatthat without admitting to doing so and publish ranting essays without the prying eyes of parents, teachers and employers.

Playing host to an impenetrable “weird zone” isn’t a finsta’s only function. With Instagram’s constantly changing algorithm, a finsta with limited followers means never missing a friend’s post again. Thanks to Instagram’s account switching feature, swapping between your finsta and rinsta has also never been easier.

It’s not only everyday users taking advantage of private accounts. For a handful of celebrities, finstas are a sacred space to keep die-hard fans at bay and share images hidden from the media. Public figures like Rose Byrne and Princess Beatrice of York keep things low-key with a few hundred close followers, while others adopt supplementary accounts to show off their wacky side. Justin Bieber operated a temporary finsta as @skylarktylark_ before serial web sleuths discovered it, and after fans outed Bella Hadid’s Japanese alter ego, @rebekkaharajuku, in April this year, the account hasn’t been active since. Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner’s finsta, @sophiessausagereviews, is a short but masterfully constructed feed of unfiltered sausage snaps. Lorde created a similar account dubbed @OnionRingsWorldwide (reviewing onion rings, worldwide…) before it was discovered, mobbed by fans and subsequently removed. A devastating loss for the onion ring appreciation community.

Bex?‍♀️ Caught in Shabuya ?? ? @livincool

A post shared by Rebekka Harajuku (@rebekkaharajuku) on

A post shared by Skylark Tylark (@skylarktylark_) on

While investigating the impacts of social media on teenagers, Cornell University professor Brooke Duffy interviewed a student who summed up the finsta movement to a tee: “Everyone kind of knows that no one’s Instagram life is their real life. You’re tailoring all the photos and editing them. On your Finstagram, it’s supposed to be like, the complete opposite.”

It’s time to ditch the VSCO filters and set up a finsta, otherwise those awkward selfies and drunken snaps will continue to go unappreciated. All you have to lose is your dignity – but only to those you deem worthy.

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