OPINION: Fake Instagram accounts can’t escape teen realities

Finstas, or ‘fake’ Instagram accounts, can be an innocent way to share funny moments in school, ugly selfies, and cute throwback pictures.

But when a finsta becomes an outlet for oversharing, venting or being flat-out inappropriate — as is often the case — what started out innocently can take an ugly turn.

First, it will probably bring you the opposite of what you need.   Yes, your closest friends may also be your finsta followers, but when you share something important on a post that is one of many on their feed, the fleeting reward of likes or comments will not substitute for the more real help and commiseration you could get in person, one-on-one.

Second, finstas ironically are causing the same social hurt they were designed to overcome. In many social circles, finstas have created a new sort of competition — not for who can look the best in a picture with their friends at the mall, but who can be the funniest, who can have the best rants, and even who can be the least appropriate.   And people who are turned down as finsta connections feel more isolated than before.

Finally, a finsta page is still a reflection of who you are and what you value. So while being inappropriate is what is trendy, socially acceptable or even expected, letting go of boundaries and standards you hold elsewhere creates a different image that may be harder to shake than you think. Internet posts can always be screen-shotted, shared, and kept.

If your goal with a dramatic post is to get actual advice or comfort, then why not approach friends, parents, or even a therapist in a setting where you can get real live support?

Compared with a double tap on a picture, dialogue forces our friends to think harder, reach deeper and empathize with us while trying to help.

If you would not normally feel comfortable cursing, making a joke about drinking or talking about the nasty argument you had with your mom last night on Facebook or in the school hallways, then you probably shouldn’t do so on a finsta.

Finstas can be a lot of fun to maintain and follow. And it is possible that the looser expectations of a finsta make those accounts a step closer to actually portraying the user’s persona than a main account does. That in and of itself is commendable.

But putting yourself out there and being vulnerable and real is hard enough as a teenager. In the digital age where everything is public,  don’t let any machine become a substitute for a friend. And just as with any other social media account, think before you post. It’s worth it.