How Teens Use 'Finsta' Accounts to Hide on Social Media

Sixteen-year-old Sydney V.’s average Instagram pic gets at least 100 likes when she posts it. Her 400+ followers see cute dressing room selfies, funny photobombs with her friends, and smiling faces at school dance competitions. It’s a picture perfect feed of a teen girl’s life. But it turns out it’s not telling the whole story. That’s because Sydney’s one of the many social media users who has a finsta — AKA, an additional, fake Instagram account. But the irony of the term is that a finsta is actually so, so real.

“My second Instagram account is set to private so I know who will be viewing my posts,” she tells Teen Vogue. “I only have about 25 followers, and I post every day. On my actual account, I barely post — maybe once a month or so.”

So, what’s the point in maintaining two accounts? The pictures on Sydney’s finsta are ones that she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing publicly, she explains. “I made it so I wouldn’t feel judged with what I post.” She says that the pictures on the second account are mostly goofy snaps with her friends or selfies that she doesn’t want the whole world to see. “I definitely feel more comfortable posting on it because I know only my close friends will see it.”

Paul Booth, associate professor at DePaul University's College of Communication and a social media expert says that’s one of the big reasons many teens are creating finstas now. “Any social media account is a reflection of ourselves and they’re very curated,” he tells us, adding that we all probably act different around different groups of people. And that’s one of the appeals of having a social account for specific audiences — you get to curate an authentic version of yourself for the people who are following you without having to worry about how many likes you’re getting or feeling judged by your followers.

Many think it’s also a way to stay out of the watchful eyes of adults. Some even use their finstas to post pics doing questionable things because it won’t come back to haunt you, right? Well, not necessarily. Booth warns that anything you post privately still could turn public. “It’s very easy for the privacy filter to suddenly become public,” he says. The social media platform might change their privacy settings without you realizing, and bam, all of those incriminating and embarrassing pics are available for future employers and schools to see (and yes, they do look at your accounts).

“Someone could also share it, or maybe a friend gets angry at you and sends it to everyone,” he says. “You can also get hacked. Nothing that is online is ever private — that’s why it’s important to make sure everything you put online you’d be comfortable with your grandparents and teachers seeing.”

With that in mind, it’s totally reasonable to have a second account if you just want to share pics without feeling pressured to get likes or worrying about what people will think. “I think it is very similar to Snapchat,” Sydney says. “My friend doesn't have Snapchat so we use the second account as if it was Snapchat. You can post whatever you want knowing that only the people you are close to will see it and won't judge.”