Press. Hold. Choose. With just one touch to the right corner of the screen, your Instagram identity can change. A mobile app that allows for multiple interchangeable accounts per individual, Instagram has risen in popularity for its three main categories: rinstas, finstas, and sinstas.
A “rinsta”, or real Instagram, is the type of account traditionally associated with the platform: a glamorous, carefully curated gallery designed to be seen by a broad audience. A fake Instagram, or “finsta”, caters more to an account owner’s close friends, often featuring candid and unfiltered photos of day-to-day experiences. The final account type is a secret Instagram or “sinsta”, sometimes referred to as a private Instagram. This account can be so private that it has no followers, with content ranging from philosophical to inappropriate, depending on the user.
Rinsta: First Look
A rinsta can be considered a virtual first impression.
“It’s what I want to display when people look at me,” sophomore Arjun Dhumne said. “In any scenario, the first impression someone sees, you want them to see your best you.”
For senior Otilia Danalache, rinsta is a way to make new connections and maintain contact with people from the past. However, this aspect of this account type can promote a degree of superficiality.
“[Rinsta is] just kind of checking up on people,” Danalache said. “It’s just scrolling through their feed and remembering, ‘Oh, that’s how my friend from third grade is doing now’. [But] there’s nothing private, nothing about my personality. There’s so many people I barely know that follow me [who] I’ve never spoken to in real life.”
That sense of artificiality associated with rinstas has left some hesitant to use the platform at all.
“Before I came to TJ, I actually didn’t have any social media because for me, it’s not an incredibly important part of my life,” sophomore Maria Izzi said. “I feel like sometimes [social media] creates more problems than it solves.”
Despite the lack of genuineness, rinsta can become a means of measuring personal worth.
“I realized that they’re very much reflections of our own insecurities,” senior Laura Gersony said. “And it’s kind of, in my eyes, a toxic cycle of seeking validation from others, and then using their validation as a metric of your own worth.”
For Gersony, who exclusively uses finsta, this journal-form of communication with her close friends has greater appeal to her than a rinsta.
“I think that the primary goal of my finsta is to communicate with my friends, as opposed to seeking validation,” Gersony said. “So I try to post when something important happens to me. ‘I’ve accomplished this’, or ‘I’ve failed dismally’ [at] something else. Just to keep them in the loop, to send them messages that have been helpful or heart-warming to me.”
Dhumne considers his finsta a place where he can show his true self, and for that reason his finsta consists only of his close friends.
“Your close friends, people who actually know who you are, are on your finsta,” Dhumne said. “Because you’re more comfortable around people who you know better, and since they’re the ones following [your finsta], you can be more like yourself. My finsta shows the true me.”
While finsta allows users greater freedom to be themselves, there are still boundaries for what can be posted. After all, nothing online is truly private.
“If it’s something that’s really important to you that you only want a few people to know, I feel like it’s best said in person anyway,” Izzi said. “Because if you put it online, even if you are restricting the people who are following you to [a] small amount, there’s always the chance that some information will get out. So if you really want something to not spread fast, just say it in person. But if you do want to keep people updated on your life at different levels of closeness, I think that social media can be a really effective mechanism. Just maybe, for someone like me, who has reasons to keep my life more secure, it’s not the best option.”
In her professional experience, Jefferson school psychologist Dr. Esther Barkat has seen how the illusion of ‘private’ social media accounts can lead to the over-sharing of personal and sensitive information.
“We think that this [account] is private, therefore nobody can get to it. But that’s not true,” Barkat said.
“Let’s say some[one] screenshot the post and reposts it. And [other people] know [who or where] that original post came from, that in turn can become problematic. So, one has to be careful. What is the limit, what is the fine line?”
Once this fine line is established, however, Gersony sees the value of finstas in creating an environment of support and amiable connections with her followers.
“Because of the narrower audience that I have, it takes away that need to be validated and to be commented on and liked. So I think that narrower population that I’ve selected to follow my style is one that I trust and admire and… value me for more than my exterior,” Gersony said.
Sinsta: Inner Circle
Danalache adds to the concept of using Instagram as a place to share information with people she trusts through her use of a private insta.
“It’s a lot more… private discussions about how I’m feeling, my mental health, or things that really bother me, or specific interactions that I don’t feel comfortable sharing with people that I don’t know as well,” Danalache said. “It’s just a lot more private and personal. Whereas [on] my spam I’m really comfortable with anyone taking a look at it… [it’s] just kind of a day to day spam of my life.”
While Freshman AJ Seo does not have an Instagram, she gravitates towards a sinsta for these reasons.
“If I had Instagram I would definitely have a sinsta … so that not everyone knows what I’m doing, but I could still share with my friends,” Seo said. “[It] would be less distracting and time-consuming because you have less people. It’s more private, so you don’t have to worry too much about who sees everything you are.”
What really distinguishes a sinsta from a finsta is its exclusivity. Some people even have no followers on these accounts, and use it as a place to document things for themselves. Danalache has 30 followers, but they are all people she trusts.
“My private, I like to call it, I don’t really call it a sinsta, that’s just for my really close friends. That’s about 30 people, and not necessarily people that I consistently talk to now, but just people that I trust,.” Danalache said.
To Izzi, private insta can have greater impact when it is translated into meaningful conversation.
“If I want to just get everything off my chest, I usually [talk] to [my friends] in person, because even just calling [a] friend on the phone and being able to talk it out is helpful,” Izzi said. “People will respond quicker if you’re talking to them in an actual conversation so if you are looking for someone else’s response or advice, you’ll get that faster. But also I feel like if you say something out loud, then it’s not as filtered because when you’re writing things, you can edit your feelings.”
Despite the many benefits Instagram users find with the use of finstas and other private accounts, the use of various Instagram accounts raises concerns about having multiple online identities.
“I think it’s a lot of useless work [to have] three different levels of who you are,” junior Michael Kyrychenko said. “Why go through all that hassle? Why does social media have to have all that drama behind it, when you’re changing who you are, when you’re going to be someone you’re not?”
Multiple accounts can be a strategy for keeping different social circles separate—family distinct from friends and co-workers, for instance, or casual acquaintances distinct from one’s inner circle. Such divisions in audience mean that the content of each account is starkly different from the others, but according to Barkat, that in itself isn’t a bad thing. What matters is how the accounts are used.
“Whether it’s a private account or it’s a public account, it all depends on how responsible you are,” Barkat said. “Both accounts can lead to a false sense of security. There’s a false sense of satisfaction when somebody likes certain things [we post], and then we get caught up in an obsession of fakeness. On the other hand, if we have a private account where we share everything, that can create a situation that can be very harmful also.”
Rather than posting about detailed information about personal issues on finstas or private accounts, Barkat strongly suggests talking to an adult you can trust about the issue.
“Try to resist posting too many intimate things on social media. And if you think you are overwhelmed, stressed, and have anxiety, seek out any one of us—your counselor, your social worker, your psychologist, your teachers, whoever is a trusting adult.”
Although Barkat believes social media has the potential to be harmful, she thinks it’s also important to acknowledge the fact that it is a part of most people’s lives now. She is not advocating for people to stop using Instagram, but for people to think more about what they post. Responsible social media usage means finding a middle ground between the two extremes of showing an perfect version of yourself and revealing too much.
“We cannot tell our children and we cannot tell everybody, ‘okay stop using this [social media]’, because that takes you out of the whole group,” Barkat said. “Ask yourself the important part of why we’re posting. What’s the importance of posting, and is it going to be helpful or harmful for me as well as another person who is looking at it. That’s your fine line. Take a deep breath before you just starting posting something.”