Instagram has been used by students to create a level of professionalism for potential employers or to give followers an impression of the best life. For some students, the pressure to “look good online” has taken a toll, causing them to create private accounts known as “finstas” — accounts where people post a raw version of themselves.
“Real Instagrams take way more time and devotion because you’re trying to be a perfect person,” said Olivia Lauber, a sophomore in music. “It takes time to choose what picture to use, maybe some editing and it takes me forever to think of a caption because I don’t want to be basic.”
Lauber said she would describe being “basic” as “not creative or just really average.” Lauber said she's able to post the "realest" things about herself on her finsta that she would never think to post on her "real" Instagram account.
“I definitely think any 'real' social media account is what you want the world to know you as — it’s all the glam photos of ‘OOTD’s’ and ‘lazy Monday’ captions," Lauber said. "Finstas are where shit gets real. If you really want to know someone, follow their finsta.”
Lauber said her finsta is a place for her to get creative by posting memes and sharing her political beliefs to a select amount of people.
“I think if I posted the same material on my real Instagram, I would upset people,” Lauber said. “I’d rather just avoid that confrontation and focus on sharing with people I can be real with.”
Meghan Collett, a junior in biochemistry, said said having a finsta gave her the platform to post herself authentically and unfiltered.
“I created a finsta because it seemed like everyone was doing it and it was fun at the time just to say whatever I wanted,” Collett said. “Now I use it to let my friends know how I am doing without a filter on my life.”
Lauber and Collett said they are selective with who follows their finstas to maintain the authentic posts, while their public accounts are more inclusive.
“Mostly people who I know won’t rat me out on how I am feeling and honest opinions,” Collett said. “I wanted to be popular at first so I had a lot of people, but now I closed it down to just people who actually care.”
Finstas have also been a platform for people to de-stress by ranting about their day or something happening in their life.
“It’s like sharing how I feel with people on this small platform without worrying about facial expressions or avoidance,” Collet said. “You can’t hear my voice if I am just writing sometimes. These people on my finsta can judge me all they want but they chose to follow me.”
Rui Chen, the director of graduate education for information systems and associate professor of information systems, said venting can be a natural health mechanism for students and can prevent them from developing extreme emotions.
However, for Collett, she said this can be a reason why she wants to deactivate her finsta, as it can be a “void” for her. While she uses her private account as an emotional outlet, Collett said she wants to maintain the privacy of her life within her group of friends rather than a private online world.
“There will be a time to move on and focus on my professional life only, and leave my private life with my fiance and my closest friends,” Collett said. “I can get sucked into reading about people’s lives and feel bad about mine.”
Collett said some people whose posts contain mental health statuses can impact hers as well, as the people who she follows also use finstas as an emotional outlet.
“People on finsta use it to vent depression and anger and sometimes you can get sucked into it and only think about the negative thoughts,” Collett said.
Chen said finstas might have a potential problem for future employers in a screen check and lines that “should not be crossed,” such as posting anything offensive or pinpointing a specific group of people.
Lauber said Instagram is very different compared to other social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.
“To me it’s almost like Instagram used to be funny and Facebook is more serious,” Lauber said.
Chen said employers may screen check their future employees, but it is up to the individual’s judgement to continue using their private account when entering professional jobs. There is a potential breach of privacy if people use their names on their finstas.
“I don’t use my name, so that makes me feel a little better,” Collett said. “[Being discovered by an employer] is another reason why I have thought about deactivating it.”
Taking some time off of social media helped give her that break from getting pulled into the emotional stress of other finsta posts.
“Try to stay positive and take a break from [finsta] every once in a while,” Collett said. “Sometimes I just take Instagram off of my phone for like two weeks to reset myself.”