Fake Instagram accounts, often referred to as “finstas” or “spam accounts”, have become the norm for many teens – but their reasoning for creating these is not as sinister as you think.
I’ve spoken with 50 Australian families – including 118 children aged 1-18 – about technology use, and am currently conducting a follow-up qualitative investigation with a further 25 teens about their social media use. The data for both studies will be published this year.
My investigations show that teens’ use of social media is constantly shifting in new ways in response to changes to social media platforms, the teen’s age and social context. Social media continues to be a significant aspect of adolescence; the right information and guidance will ensure that use is positive and healthy.
Instagram is the most popular social media platform for teens: data from the United States shows that about 76% of this age group use it regularly. My current research shows that on any given day, a teen accesses Instagram around 10-30 times. They check likes, comments, share stories, view their friends’ latest posts, and follow their interests.
A distinctive trend in Instagram use, something that can go under the radar, is that teens increasingly have more than one account. Teens will often have a “rinsta” – a real Instagram account – and a “finsta”: a fake or second account.
Teens do not typically set up finstas in their own name, but instead use a fake name or the name of an entity such as their favourite character. The idea is that the accounts cannot be traced back to them.
Adults may be inclined to assume that finstas are created by teens to hide scandalous and/or overtly sexual behaviour. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Growing up in the social media era, members of this age group are acutely aware of the pressures on them to create and maintain the picture-perfect online profile. Finstas are often strategically used by teens to relieve this pressure.
Private, less visible accounts allow teens the opportunity to move away from the carefully cultivated, public persona on their real Instagram account – and present a rawer, “this-is-the-real-me” personality to a smaller group of closer friends.
Teens commonly create finstas as a space to show their silly or more vulnerable side with close friends, without being judged by others. It is not uncommon for teens to have thousands of Instagram followers (many of whom they don’t know personally), and the potential for criticism on such accounts is rife.
– Joanne Orlando
Image source – Flickr.com