This article originally appeared on Garage.
When I’ve had a little too much Internet for the day, I often find myself recalling a not-too-distant past: 2012, to be exact, when Obama was reelected, when we all thought the end of the Mesoamerican calendar would bring the world to an end (in retrospect, maybe it did), and when Instagram was little more than friends’ dogs and office lunches left barely legible behind saturated filters. Today, Instagram has become a very branded articulation of our lives—“Myself Inc.”
The notion of “me” as a corporate enterprise has become somewhat inconvenient as Instagram becomes ubiquitous—and in some cases, a social or career necessity. For younger social media users, for example, Instagram is the app of choice—even when compared to Facebook, which once seemed invincible. Many teens report even feeling “out of control,” or “isolated” when not using Instagram, and have many unofficial rules when it comes to likes and posts. And for “creatives” and those in entertainment, Instagram may even be a sort of resume, outperforming LinkedIn or other comparable sites. In many cases, companies in fields beyond the arts demand a certain sort of “social media etiquette” to ensure an employee’s reputation—and transitively, that of the brand—stays in tact.
In these cases, a profile is more of a portfolio, which has recently given rise to an alternate portal to display our true selves—a modern-day equivalent to the diary hidden in a box under the bed. A Finstagram, or “Finsta”—i.e. a fake/secondary Instagram account to be shared with trusted friends—is just that. Finsta is like the side of yourself you are hesitant to share—the inner shell that has watched every episode of S.V.U. six times, likes really esoteric philosophy memes, and wants to rant about being catcalled. Or maybe that’s just me. But if mindlessly posting about the meaningless seems desirable to you, but mindlessly posting where your ex-boss, ex-partners, and those you respect can find and judge you seems less desirable, you might be a good Finsta candidate. This could, understandably, seem like a lot of work, but most (if not all) things that are anecdotally beneficial for us tend to take some work; just as writing in a journal or venting to a friend can be cathartic, so can a Finstagram. Such revered Instagrammers as Hari Nef, Lorde, and Tavi Gevinson are rumored to have Finstagrams—so you know they must be worth it.
But establishing a whole secret second life is no small enterprise. Perhaps you’re worried about privacy or, though seemingly petty, the careful algorithm of social capital calculated by “mutual-following.” So here is a step-by-step guide to doing it right.
First, pick a username. If you’re into puns, make your username something only friends would know about you—mine is a play on a Soviet policy of the 1980s, which sounds much like my name. Name obscurity, of course, depends on how much privacy you care for, if any. For some, a simple privacy setting is sequestered enough. But please, stick to a funny, coherent name so if people find you, it’s chill.
Second, hide in plain sight, Make the account private, follow who you know and actually like, and decline other requests. It’s oddly refreshing to keep things intimate.
Now you’re ready to share. Personally, I share a wide variety of posts, ranging from the banal meme, to ugly mid-sneeze pics, to angry tirades, to explicit and annoying messages I receive on my normal DMs. I like outing people. Some (like my mother—hi mom!) like to think that a Finstagram only showcases the more scandalous, but as far as I’m concerned, most Finstas are extraordinarily indiscriminate. A stream of consciousness if you will. So next time you have a pic that you want to spare from your friends’ mom’s eyes, make a chia pudding or some shit that looks really good, are having a rough day or want to be a bit cynical—spare your regular Instagram feed and save it for those special individuals that actually care about you. Social media attention is fickle, fictitious, and fleeting. Finstas are for who count.
And yes, having two accounts, caring about what you post, and curating even one aspect of your life is all extraordinarily vain! But narcissism hardly has its origins in Instagram, or even in social media for that matter. Hell, if you had the money to do so 300 years ago, you'd grab your entire family and sit still for hours to have your (glorified) likenesses painted and hung on the wall. Humans have always been narcissistic, and above all else, we crave shared sentiment with others. Rousseau called it “amour proper”; I just call it validation. It’s not one of our finer qualities. Capitalism knows how to offer us products that satisfy our, well, baser instincts, so here we are, double-tapping our way through life. Finstagrams allow you to do to all the things that marketing gods purport to sell us in millennial pink: be authentic, connect with others, and forget the pressure to be so perfect all the time. If you've already drunk the social media Kool-Aid and aren't yet ready to repent, make a Finstagram. It might just bring you back down to reality.