BY SHELBY JORDAN One morning in September, Alex McGurk, NYU sophomore, was chopping peppers for her omelet when the knife slipped and slashed into her left thumb. Five stitches later, Alex opened her finsta (fake Instagram) account, @mcgunks, and chronicled her latest mishaps from the past week. Besides the knife wound, she accidentally smashed a banana into her laptop keys, only days before her 20th birthday. “Bad Luck McGunk lives on!” she captions, with a zoomed in photo of her injured thumb holding a coffee mug, unflatteringly close to her face.
“Finstas” or fake Instagram accounts are the alternative to the carefully crafted aesthetic that real Instagram’s represent. “My real insta isn’t an inaccurate representation of my life, but it is definitely more of a highlight reel,” says @soybholz, a sophomore at UVA, who requested anonymity, along with the others, to uphold the secretive nature of their account.
Instagram use is directly correlated to self-gratification and image creation, found a study by two University of Alabama professors. Users are strategic with what, when, and how they post each photo and caption in order to maximize likes and gain followers. Low amounts of likes and followers can have negative mental effects, especially when compared to friends. It creates competition, stressful competition and today’s millennials are rebelling with finstas. These posts are a direct contrast to the aesthetically pleasing landscapes, gourmet foods, and photos of friends and travel that can be found on primary Instagram accounts. “Rinstas” and “Finstas” are two separate worlds, each showcasing a different layer of the user. “A real insta isn’t real at all, and the finsta is too real,” says @anoldelchang, NYU sophomore, “If it’s funny, it’s going on the finsta. If someone fucks up, it’s going on the finsta.”
Finstas are an unfiltered, unedited, sincere, and usually comical take on daily life. So for some millennials, “finstas are judgment free-zones and therefore allow people to be real without fearing social consequences,” says @call_me_on_my_zelphone, a freshman at NYU. And most important, they are exclusive. Only close friends are given permission to follow. Millennials will post anything from an ugly selfie or funny meme to an embarrassing drunk picture, usually with a lengthy caption for entertainment value, making it into a modern day journal. Online of course.
The days of keeping a diary are over (or never happened) for most millennials, but that desire to chronical daily highs and lows is still strong. Millennials have grown up with hundreds of social media platforms freely available, and many are more comfortable on these mediums than with a pen and a piece of paper. “We have grown up in the era of social media, we are used to broadcasting our lives, and with finstas we can show it all,” claims @angsty20s, an NYU sophomore, “not just the spectacular or enviable.” Feeling overwhelmed and in need of an outlet, he began using his account early in his sophomore year. “You always hear about angsty teens, but never an angsty 20-year-old,” he says. “I just had a lot going on and I wanted a way to share it.” He then began posting a pointless picture, a selfie or a screenshot of a funny text conversation, with a long caption detailing the ups and downs of his recent experiences.
There are many possibilities to a finsta, resulting in many misconceptions. Urban dictionary defines the account as a place for the user to post “pictures of them partaking in illegal activities.” Daniel Patterson, an academic advisor for teens, writes in a Huffington Post article, that the finsta is “a fake Instagram, account, primarily used to hide scandalous and overtly sexual behavior, cultivate and alter ego, and function with anonymity to troll peers.” Finstas are depicted as a way to bully, to escape the law, or hide from adults or superiors. Though there may be a select few that fit this description, the majority are just used as an outlet for the user.
“Because finstas are so secretive, I think older generations just want to assume the worst,” claims McGurk, “But, really, I have nothing to hide.” McGurk uses her account to comment on the embarrassing, funny, and unbelievable parts of her daily routine. “I think finstas are more about making fun of yourself rather than others,” she says, “It is more of a self-deprecating type of humor than malicious, and adults just don’t understand that.”
In McGurk’s latest finsta post she is in a wheelchair with a bottle of smart water, and a defeated look on her face. For spring break, McGurk visited Disney World with her family. Near the end of their trip, someone spilt a hot cup of tea on her lap in a Dunkin Dount’s parking lot, leaving her with a few second and third degree burns. Bad Luck McGunk returns.