What is a ‘Finsta’, and why it’s not as authentic as people are making it out to be

What is a ‘Finsta’, and why it’s not as authentic as people are making it out to be

The real deal

Text: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @hannezaruma

I'd like to think that a certain degree of narcissism is required to do what I do. It's perhaps why self-reflection is so low on my list of priorities; as Buro. Singapore's resident beauty editor, I am simply too busy analysing the state of my pores — and everyone else's (jk) — to contemplate my existence. But that's okay, because that's what Facebook is for. According to the *cough* real breakout star of The Social Network, 2021 marks my third year of employment as a Serious Journalist. I remember the prep work that followed once the legalities were squared away: a routine visit to Zara for work-appropriate attire; my "casual" flex exhibited through a title change on LinkedIn; and, lastly, the set-up of my Finsta.

Borne from the combination of the words "fake" and "Instagram", it refers to a hidden account users wield that are separate from their public personas. It is, by and large, anonymous to the masses; an untraceable space deemed safe for NSFW content or cyber-stalking. Following @kaiagerber makes you privy to her latest professional achievements, and gives some insight with regard to her hobbies and aspirations. Gaining access to her rumoured secondary account (@impossiblegerber), on the other hand, provides a veritable goldmine of information. The follower count indicates who constitutes her inner circle; her captions are refreshingly unfettered from public opinion; and her grid actually has photos that doesn't feature her pouty mug.

Here seemingly lies the appeal of Finsta: there is no need for posturing or pretence. In a time where the privacy of public figures are constantly breached, it is a safe haven for said folk to broadcast their love for onion rings (Lorde), or even share family photos to a group of trustworthy individuals. And as with most Hollywood trends, it is a practice that has bled over to us plebs. In the last month alone, I've observed an upcropping of seven Finsta accounts within my circle.

I chatted up a few of them to figure out the intended purpose behind said private pages. Most, it seemed, were looking to maintain a boundary between their professional image and their personal lives. Others claimed it a private sanctum free of judgment; an escape from the toxicity of social media. The overwhelming consensus remained: such feeds felt genuine and intimate, with none of the performativity that commonly pervades social media accounts.

This prompted some pondering on my part, to which I arrived at the point: isn't it ironic that we're dubbing Finstas the last vestiges of authenticity, when the act of creating (and maintaining!) an account in itself is still a form of self-presentation? The images are untouched; the captions deemed "unrefined", and yet the fact remains that we're still curating what we want our followers to know. We're still projecting an image here — granted, to a much smaller, guarded audience. And while it's fair to want to distinguish how you appear to your friends as compared to your boss, it's strange how said Finsta users aren't opting for Instagram's Close Friends function to do just that.

Then again, such is the nature of social media. I started my Finsta with the intention of recounting my amazing exploits at a new job. I (much like an overwhelming number of Internet users) was consumed by the urge to recount every minute detail to my pals, just without the pressure of having to mull over the implications of describing the company's coffee machine as 'finicky.'

But as it turns out, that — from curating my follower list to coming up with a witty, non-try-hard username — is an effort in itself; a feat I find myself incapable of even three years after. Maybe one day I'd be overcome with the urge to broadcast the inner workings of my mind to an exclusive group of (lucky!) peers. Until then, I'll be continuing to harangue you guys via group chat.