With more than 300 million daily active users and a focus on photography, Instagram provides a platform where users can connect through public or private accounts. It is also the social media platform that I tend to gravitate towards the most. While social media, like Instagram, benefits our lives in various ways, there is often an immense pressure that comes with presenting ourselves online. I think social media has become a preferred form of communication because of how simple and accessible and it is. As a young adult in what is called, “the digital age,” I feel very inclined to keep my social media presence updated mainly because I have become conditioned to keeping my followers updated on selected aspects of my life.
My Instagram has a dual purpose because I have two separate accounts. Both accounts serve a common purpose of sharing photos; however, I present myself very differently on each one. My main account is more focused on the creativity, aesthetic value, and the element of “cool “ of each post because almost everyone I know follows my main account. My secondary account or “finsta,” slang for fake Insta, displays my daily struggles and a less glorified version of my life for much smaller follower base. After comparing the two accounts I found that, my finsta is ultimately more authentic representation of me because I offer a more genuine portrayal of my life. I feel that authenticity is lost through social media because it is common to omit or emphasize certain aspects of our lives to maintain a specific image which can misconstrue the authenticity of one’s life. For example, one can keep up the facade that he or she only frequents the trendiest local cafes simply by never posting any average restaurants that he or she may go to. Ultimately, authenticity on one’s Instagram profile can be misrepresented depending upon what users chose to reveal or omit about their life.
I have composed my main Instagram with photos to put my life in only the best light which eliminates a holistic view of my life; therefore making my account less authentic. Since Instagram is mainly about followers, it is essential to comprise one’s account of a variety of photos with good quality and complementary filters to attract followers. Since I am so fixated on showing the most outstanding forms of my life, I naturally omit the reality of the fairly average life I lead. In “Facebook: Editing Myself,” Mrigaa Sethi shares an uncomfortable experience that she had when a student stumbled upon her Facebook profile which revealed parts of her life that she feared would obstruct her image as a professional. She also states how challenging it can be to provide viewers with a complete and realistic image of oneself based solely on carefully selected photos. Sethi admits to only selecting images that she finds appropriate for her profile which conveys how she omits other parts of her life. Sethi argues that due to the reach and close to universal accessibility of social media, her Facebook profile, “ necessitates a diluted and carefully edited version of the self that is at times less than, more than, and something entirely else from the original” ( Sethi, 62). Similar to Sethi, I find that my main Instagram account is the edited version of myself because it has a larger viewership that I seek approval from. I feel that I have to be more careful in my selections to preserve the representation of myself that I want all of my followers to see. In both of our cases, we have tried to protect parts of identities by emphasizing the most flattering aspects of our lives. By doing so, our authenticity is limited because we are detracting from and diluting the complete stories of our lives.
However, not all Instagram accounts are dedicated to portraying this perfect version of reality.
Behind many perfectly manicured Instagram profiles, there are finsta profiles which proves how there is an alternate, potentially more authentic representation of one’s life. Secondary accounts or “finstas” have been created as a supplement to primary accounts with content that would be deemed unacceptable for “real” Instagram accounts. Among teens, it most common to have a parody account that displays the not so flattering or aesthetically pleasing reality of life because we don’t want to devalue our main accounts. The irony is that a fake account is sometimes a more authentic representation of one’s life than a real account.
Finstas hide under pseudonyms and remain private, only to be followed by a select group of close friends. On a finsta, likes are devalued and comment sections serve as a space to empathize with friends struggles. While on a real Instagram, getting the maximum about of likes is the objective of a post and comments tend to express sentiments of jealousy of how cool one’s life appears to be. The finsta provides an acceptable space to feel no pressure to cover one’s authentic self. Personally, my main account is the filtered me—it’s how I often want people to perceive me. It’s where I look good in my pictures: I’m happy, and I’m having fun. My finsta is more genuine and it shows me sad, scared, or embarrassed which are sides of me that wouldn’t appear on my main account. While the process of posting on a regular Instagram is much more complex including the approval of friends, finding the right filter, and finding a clever caption, a finsta post can simply be an unattractive selfie that is posted immediately without any regard to quality. This carelessness makes it the most honest and authentic display of oneself. The parallel between the two accounts is that on a finsta we see each other for who we are, unfiltered and real, but a main account encourages one to present the less honest version of our lives.
Recently, I looked through the main Instagram profile of one of my classmates from high school. She posted a glowing photo of her giggling among her sorority sisters followed by perfect photos from game day, and images of her with friends in her residence hall on her main Instagram which put me under the impression that she loved her school. Yet, when I visited her finsta I saw the less glorified version of her first semester. After scrolling through her posts, I realized that she didn’t love her school after all. Her finsta serves as a supplement of the truth or untold reality that her main account will most likely never reveal. I think in an age of self representation, finstas serve as a shelter for the truth because many teens want to protect the image that they have created on their main accounts. Her case represents that dangers of wanting to create a perfect profile that in reality is a facade and misrepresents your truth or authentic self. I think some find comfort in creating a profile that makes their life look more desirable than it truly is.
Authenticity is lost in the process of creating a self image that is most desirable.
Ultimately, one’s authentic self can potentially be misinterpreted due to the ways in which the user maintains his or her account. Sethi states that her profile is a “negotiation of self as much ( maybe even more than) it is a declaration of self” (Sethi, 62). Her statement reflects how social media users are comprising their identities rather than owning them in full. It speaks to how we settle with only sharing the most attractive parts of lives without declaring the not so pretty, yet more authentic parts of our lives. I think it will take a lot of acceptance of our authentic lives for the social pressures of Instagram to become less prevalent. Personally, I believe when I can come to terms with my real life versus the life I display on my main account, I will no longer need a finsta. When I can apply the same carelessness to posting on my main account as I have on my finsta, I will be able to portray a more complete and authentic image of my life. While I know it will be challenging, I do think it is an attainable goal because I want to become comfortable with presenting an authentic image of my identity.