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Have millennials killed social media performativity?

Millennial and younger generations have been criticized incessantly for being “addicted” to the technology that characterized our upbringing. But what if as a millennial or younger, you want to escape the performativity and constant connection of that space? Not worry about likes or producing good content?

Enter: the Finsta. A separate Instagram account that functions more like a retelling of your day to a close friend.  For when you would rather not have Bryce, who you met by friend of a friend and have only had light socialization with while drinking the diluted yeast water fraternities call beer, read a detailed narrative of your experience being butt naked in your gynecologist’s office for your first pap smear. Full disclaimer, this sort of post would most-likely be neatly packaged as an Instagram post of a picture of a weird wall-hanging in your doctor’s office, not a live-time picture of a pap-smear.

A simple search through the interwebs pulls up many sources from the concerned parents of America, treating the Finsta like it’s the next Whip-It. Huffington Post reports a finsta is “primarily used to hide scandalous and overtly sexual behavior, cultivate an alter ego and function with anonymity to troll peers.” This language makes finstas seem like an alternative underworld to social media where the worst of the worst is allowed to cultivate.

Finsta is short for “fake Instagram,” but that has some negative connotations for its simplistic and rather arbitrary name. Quite the contrary, a fake Instagram to most is separate from troll accounts, or the seemingly fake Instagram influencers selling Fit Tea, but instead, a second Instagram that isn’t as public, or performative, as an Instagram attached to their government name. The great irony is that it’s generally people as their most real self, opposite of fake. Urban dictionary, the millennial generation’s Daniel Webster, has 14 entries all explaining relatively the same thing of a second private Instagram, which solidifies its validity in generational existence.

The alternative to the “finsta” is a “rinsta,” real Instagram, where your normal polished image is followed, usually by people that don’t know you on a personal level. There are societal norms that dictate what is acceptable for Instagram use on your real Instagram, like the kinds of photos that are posted, how often, and what kind of captions the photos contain, much like any social media site. The appeal to these finstas is that there are no rules; absolute anarchy.

I, too, caved and made a finstagram, despite my adamant claims of social media performativity purity, and that I’m totally 100 percent real on social media because I’m not like “other people”  who only post pictures of themselves, or themselves with their friends. I made one, named it deadbabybird_420, gave the profile picture an image of a little frog in a bath, and posted my first photo.

The more I used it, the more it felt like some group therapy, and more than privacy, but a way to reach out personally to every one of the different friend groups I had. Sometimes it feels a little narcissistic to text every one of my friends why I’m feeling depressed that day and a finsta post is sufficient for reaching out. It works perfectly for things that don’t require a Facebook post — like a breakup montage with details, like names, narrated by a now freshly-dumped distant friend you were good friends with in high school.

Ashley, 21, created a finsta last year under the username AshleyRulez69, in order to be less serious on Instagram. Her main posts are super close-up photos of herself, which are a staple of finsta culture, doing a rundown of everything happening in her life.

In some way, Instagram is the only realistic way to mass spread private information to a curated group of people, especially after allowing you to easily switch between accounts with the touch of a button. Facebook prefers each user have one account attached to a human with page switching for organizations/pages. Snapchat has one phone number per account, limiting the ability to have two accounts. Twitter is another possible route, but it never gained as much attention and its own name like a finsta, perhaps because of the ability to retweet.

Irena, 21, doesn’t have a finsta, but doesn’t devalue the purpose of a finsta.

“I have a Twitter and I prefer to think in words versus images and words,” she said. “I feel like the function of a finsta is to be free and say and do whatever you want which is what I do on Twitter.”

Beneath all this talk of performativity, there is a generational divide about what levels of communication and privacy you know how to navigate with. Millennials often find it hard to disconnect, not because they’re necessarily “addicted” to phones, but our whole notions of socializing and building relationships with our peers have been through technology. We have nothing safe to fall back on like older generations, which is why it’s that much harder to find privacy in something you can’t live without. In a world where each phase of your life can be semi-permanently publicly documented in social media existence, finstas provide that refuge.