Scrolling through Instagram, I see at least 12 photos of food, a handful of memes, 30 photos of people reminiscing about Spring Break, and 17 photos of people bragging about their fitness. This display of clout usually doesn’t match the reality of these people’s lives. Yet, this is nothing to whine about because, obviously, you’re only going to put your best face forward, right? Until you get to the finsta.

The finsta is a space where people share their embarrassing moments or inner thoughts that are too inappropriate and/or weird for your aunt on Facebook. I had never heard of a “fake Instagram” until I got to college. At the time, social media had only been a place to share one’s achievements and to let people know you went to the beach. It never occurred to me that people would enjoy sharing their hangovers and failed academics online. 

At first, I was baffled. Why on earth would you share that you had a mental breakdown that day? Why would you post screenshots of a failed booty-call? Why would you display the most unattractive photo you could find of yourself? More importantly, what are the effects this can have on mental health? We already know that social media can have a negative impact in general from the grandiose fantasy that many display, but what about the other end of the spectrum?

There are both benefits and harm that can come from this sort of inner psyche advertisement. Having an outlet to discuss issues with close friends can pave the way for difficult conversations. It can also act as a way to broadcast to friends you don’t see every day what shenanigans you have been up to. In a broader context, it can also help to dismantle the stigma currently surrounding mental illness. 

On the other hand, the commoditization of mental illness is a slippery slope that can remove the serious implications of its impacts. Joking about the hard times can be cathartic, but it can downplay the seriousness of the situation. Additionally, because finstas are often littered with various images of drug and alcohol abuse, it can normalize overconsumption and dangerous behaviors.

So, to finsta or not to finsta? That is the question. As many detrimental effects as it can have, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good laugh. Therefore, use at your own risk and keep shit-posting away. Just know that the hard times may come and go, but the internet is forever. Most importantly, remember that your children will never believe you were cool in college unless you have at least one video of you doing a keg stand. 

Illustration by Lo Wall

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