This story, originally published on Jan. 22, 2018, has been updated.
You’re probably familiar with the popular photo sharing social media app Instagram, but have you ever heard of a “Finsta?”
A Finsta, a combination of the words “fake” and “Instagram,” is essentially a fake second Instagram account cultivated for a much smaller, private audience. Compared to the often filtered images shared to a user’s “Rinsta” (or “real” Instagram account), a Finsta features a much more unfiltered experience.
Among teenagers, the Finsta account began as a safe space from nosy family members, educators or even future employers. It’s most popular among girls.
Think ugly selfies or complaints about an awkward encounter that you wouldn’t want your entire Instagram audience to see, Brooke Erin Duffy, an assistant professor of communications at Cornell University, said in a post for Quartz.
“Everyone kind of knows that no one’s Instagram life is their real life,” another student told Duffy. “You’re really tailoring all the photos and editing them and making sure that they look perfect. On your Finstagram, it’s supposed to be like the complete opposite.”
"Such acts of digital self-surveillance make sense against the backdrop of widespread media coverage of social media gaffes," Duffy wrote. "We often hear about employees losing their jobs after publishing a distasteful image or a tactless tweet."
But at its worst, Finsta accounts warp into a space where anonymous users hide scandalous or sexual behavior or partake in cyberbullying.
Even if what users post is part of a private Finsta account with an anonymous username, account creators can be traced back by analyzing followers and Instagram activity. And those seemingly private posts can easily surface online if anyone takes a screenshot or records a video of the content.
Last year, 19-year-old Harley Barber, a now-former student at the University of Alabama, was kicked out of her Alpha Phi sorority and removed from the university after racially charged videos she posted to her Finsta surfaced online.
Soon after, Georgia State University women’s soccer team member Natalia Martinez was suspended from the team and withdrew from the university for a similar incident in which she posted videos with racial slurs on her own Finsta account.
According to a survey of more than 10,000 people aged 12 to 20 conducted by anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label, 42 percent of Instagram users had been bullied on the platform.
Instagram was also deemed the worst social media network for mental health by scientists in the United Kingdom, who surveyed nearly 1,500 young people aged 14 to 24.
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