The mistake of ‘privacy’ in private Instagram accounts

February 9, 2017 — by Spring Ma and Eric Sze

Instagram has many social flaws which end up detracting from the overall experience.

People used to complain that social media and Instagram photos were fake — too edited and too contrived to be real representations of the people in them. But recently, social media has taken an alternate route, with more and more users creating “private Instagram accounts” or “fake instas” to express a more candid version of themselves.

For teenagers, the real point of a fake Instagram or a “finsta” is to share more personal posts with only a select group. Essentially, private Instagrams are large group chats.

They open up a space for users to express their lives — whether they receive a college acceptance, or experience some hilarious encounter — that they’d rather only show a limited audience of typically 20 to 60 people. Embarrassing pictures, inside jokes and supportive comments from a close circle of friends are all the benefits of a finsta.

Private Instagrams are part of a new movement — among disappearing group Snapchats and locked Houseparty video chats — that tries to return social media to its former purpose of just a communication method between people and their close friends.

But what started as an innocent concept — an attempt of privacy in our more public lives — has turned into a platform of public gossip and derogatory rants for angsty teens. The world of finstas has become a place where individuals abuse the privacy of finstas to share gossip about others (using seemingly ambiguous nicknames or vague terms) and post rude comments about people who happen to live outside this “private” world.

But how big is the gap between the followers of a private account and those sitting outside this exclusive circle? The answer is very small — more than anything, screenshots and travelling phone screens spread gossip like wildfire. The truth is, these fake Instagram accounts are not private in any way other than in name, and users tread dangerous territory once they start using words they never would in person. There have even been many recent instances when school administrators have had to step in, as there is a fine line between the words said over finstas and bullying.

People are completely justified in their desire to share and express themselves with those they truly care about. And though gossip will always exist in everyday conversations and social media, one platform is very different than the other. If people going to talk bad about someone else, they might as well do so through a mode of communication they can control.

Don’t get us wrong — we both have private Instagrams ourselves (with very secretive usernames, don’t ask) — but it is on all of us to never mistake privacy as secrecy or use these forums as a convenient way to ridicule others. The next time you find yourself fuming with anger about someone’s offensive actions, or are just feeling petty about a certain topic, dial the number of a close friend and have an actual private conversation.

2 views this week