Finstas are a dangerous outlet for young adults

Patrick Greer

High school theater often fosters more drama off the stage than on it, as I discovered during the past four years. In that time, the social drama in my department and many American high schools shifted over to fake Instagrams, or “finstas.” Finstas are private Instagram accounts created by users to vent to close friends, chat confidentially about life, and post sexually explicit or legally incriminating material. Finstas are typically reserved for the closest confidants of the user. But the isolated nature of an account so rich with emotion may serve to weary rather than relieve the user.

The image of finstas as unfiltered and impassioned can stimulate an unhealthy addiction to oversharing online. In a study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, participants regularly using Facebook reported three times the perceived self-isolation (PSI) reported by non-users. Emotional reliance on public social media is already problematic as it is; the secrecy of finstas encourages constant use, a convenient alternative to seeking advice from friends or family. Instead of an outlet, the finsta becomes a crutch and then a prison.

The content uploaded by finsta users, ostensibly safe within the confines of a private set of friends, faces real danger. A study by the Girls Scouts of America indicated 59 percent of adolescent girls in the U.S. feel they have complete control over their digital uploads to social media sites. To finsta users, the privacy and exclusivity of their account appear especially secure. Consequently, cyberbullying has also found a new home in the finsta community, free from the eyes and ears of the targets. Many accounts feature crying selfies and nude snapshots, photos that could be employed as revenge by angry friends or blackmail by avaricious crooks. While anyone can happily maintain a friends-only social media account, all should tread lightly.

The unfortunate truth is that no social media account is an island. Mark Zuckerberg himself fell victim to hacking three times in 2016. Social media sites also periodically update their privacy policy, easily overlooked changes that could result in dire consequences for finsta users. Concerned users should conduct regular password changes and mass wipes of compromising posts to prevent security breaches. Limiting access to only a handful of real-life friends preserves the purpose of a finsta as a support group while also weeding out any followers that might not be so loyal. Some finsta users understand the emotional risk associated with posting, and take regular breaks. Others simply use their account to update close friends on their personal life. These methods are steps to healthy finsta use.

The username and password of a social media account, no matter its privacy or exclusivity, cannot ensure the confidentiality of the posts or the trustworthiness of those viewing them. There are no walls that can’t be broken down in the world of social media. And if you are constantly turning to a finsta for sympathy instead of a friend, you only wall off yourself.

Patrick Greer is a Government sophomore from Houston.