#MediaMondayTip: rinsta vs. finsta – Which is the fake one?

5 min read

By Clare Reynders, MEDIAGIRLS Editorial Volunteer

“Wait, what is finsta? Is that a new app?” We’re asked this a lot at parenting talks and workshops. With new social media trends cropping up nearly every day, it’s understandably hard to keep up with all of them. So let us explain…


One of the most popular trends for young people on Instagram is the concept of a “finsta,” something that can be a bit confusing, and especially important to understand when it comes to the self-esteem and online well-being of kids and teens. A finsta, or finstagram, refers to a fake Instagram. Most young people with an Instagram account usually have two: their “rinsta,” or real Instagram, and their finsta. Real Instagram accounts usually have many followers, might be public, and will show only carefully selected photos that showcase girls at their “best.”


Finstas are private accounts for only selected friends to follow, with funny, less polished pictures. On one hand, finstas give young people the opportunity to be themselves on social media, something very difficult to do. On the other hand, private accounts like this make cyberbullying much easier and, as Risa C., age 13, a member of our youth advisory board, says, “people should be able to post the real them on their main account.”


Resource for parents and educators:


Researchers from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK recently published a report titled “#StatusOfMind“, which examined how young people interact with social media. They found Instagram to be the most detrimental to mental health, citing the app has a profound negative impact on depression, anxiety, body image, sleep, cyberbullying, and FoMO (aka – Fear of Missing Out). However, researchers also found benefits to social media consumption, including the ability for youth to freely express themselves, access other people’s experiences with health/mental health conditions, and find emotional support during challenging times. In response to their findings, the RSPH is advocating for social media apps to include excessive usage warnings, notification pop-ups on digitally altered photographs, and trainings for teachers and students on safe social media consumption – all positive steps.


So are finstas good or bad for young girls’ self-esteem?


To answer this question, let’s take a closer look at how finstas are used. Claire G., age 13, from our youth advisory board explains, “I personally don’t have a finsta, but many of my close friends do. They mainly post spam or funny pictures of them and their friends. Their rinsta is for the cute ones.”


Finstas are for private jokes and funny pictures that you want to put somewhere, but for a photo to be good enough for a rinsta, it has to be cute and cool-looking enough to get a lot of likes. Claire and Risa tell us that almost all of their friends have both a rinsta and a finsta, and the finsta has far fewer followers on purpose. It’s almost an unspoken requirement of having an Instagram that you have both types of accounts. They also tell us that people post far more often on their finstas, sometimes “spamming,” or posting many funny photos in a row, something that would never be socially acceptable on a rinsta.


This finsta trend is interesting, because, for example, Claire tells us that “you don’t want everyone to see your double chin selfie, just your close friends.” A finsta is a good opportunity to have your own space within the social media world where you can be free to be yourself. But, at the same time, a private area like this can easily become an easier place to cyberbully or exclude.


Our youth advisory board consultants had the best reactions to this conundrum. Risa says, “people should be able to post the real them on their main account, and it’s sad to see people having a ‘fake self’ (rinsta) and ‘real self’ (finsta).” Similarly, Claire concludes, “The way you portray yourself in social media is important, and I think that finstas are sort of useless. I think that if you have a fun picture you should just post it. I find myself resenting these pretty girls on Instagram, and it’s horrible! I have to remind myself that what they’re showing isn’t their real life, and I can’t compare myself to it. I don’t think rinsta and finsta should be separate, I think your social media presence should reflect your real life.”


I agree with Risa and Claire; it seems like the very existence of a finsta implies that you can’t be yourself on your regular social media account. So which account is actually the fake one? Maybe it would be easier not to resent pretty girls on Instagram if they were posting double-chin selfies, too! If more people were their silly selves on social media instead of trying to put up a facade, it seems like we’d all be a whole lot happier.


Clare Reynders is a junior at Vassar College majoring in Media Studies with a minor in Women’s studies. She loves singing in her a cappella group, reading books, and, of course, empowering young women.

This piece was originally published on MEDIAGIRLS.ORG and is republished with permission. Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.

She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.

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