“Finsta” accounts: How private are they?


Photo courtesy of techzillo.com

Finsta accounts are often private so that they cannot be accessed by the general public.

Shasa Sartin, Editor-In-Chief

“It’s honestly a diary,” Meron Abebe (‘22) said. “I used to write in my journals; I don’t anymore. I just post everything on finsta.”

‘Finsta’ is the combination of the words “fake” and “Instagram,” denoting an account on the social media platform that is almost always characterized by the following traits: locked to the general public, little to no outward descripction or easily identifiable information of the person who is running the account, and containing private and or personal information about the person who owns the account. A finsta includes more emotionally vulnerable moments, as well as dramatized descriptions of day-to-day experiences, than a “real” “Instagram” — ‘rinsta’, denoting someone’s primary account.

Even though posts on finsta accounts are intended for a private audience of an often intimate collection of followers, they do not always remain in that environment. Posts on social media platforms of any kind by Luther students — including on locked accounts — are subject to the rules in the Luther College Student Handbook Code of Conduct.

Explanation of the reach of the Code of Conduct can be found in Article III; Point A of the Luther College Handbook.

“The Luther Code of Conduct shall apply to conduct that occurs on Luther College premises, at Luther College sponsored programs and activities, and to off-campus conduct that adversely affects the Luther College Community and/or pursuit of its objectives,” the Handbook says. “Each student shall be responsible for his/her conduct from the time of initial visit as a prospective student through the actual awarding of a degree, even though conduct may occur before classes begin or after classes end, as well as during the academic year and during periods between terms of actual enrollment, even if his/her conduct is not discovered until after a degree is awarded.”

Actions that count as violations of the Code of Conduct can be found in Article III; Point B. Anything that is recognized as illegal in Winneshiek County is an automatic violation of the Code of Conduct, as well as other actions that could negatively impact campus culture from the perspective of the administration — which could include a social media post that has been brought to the attention of the college. After Luther administration is made aware of the situation, the process for vetting a violation begins. 

Former student and resident assistant Cayla Loy had a post from her finsta page reported to her supervisor, which contributed to her loss of the RA position. Loy was uncomfortable with her private post being deprived of that privacy.

“It was exposing, and it felt like some kind of weird betrayal,” Loy said. “I only wanted the people who followed me to be able to see them.”

Conversely, Loy believes that it is appropriate to create higher-risk posts on a finsta account because there is an unofficial contract of trust between a finsta user and their approved followers. The act of a follower undermining this trust through screenshotting and sharing a post is what she finds most problematic.

“I don’t think I should expect consequences of actions if I’m being very private about it,” Loy said. “If you have that trust in those people [followers of finsta account] then I don’t think it’s wrong to feel violated when people break that trust.”

Making personal posts under the assumption that they will only be seen by one’s approved finsta followers is an important aspect of posting, according to Abebe.

“I use mine as a place to just kind of dump all of my random thoughts,” Abebe said. “But I also use it as a space to share some things that I wouldn’t necessarily share with the general public, but that I’m comfortable sharing with the people that I allow to follow me.”

The feeling of a locked “digital diary,” as Loy has called it, leaves some users feeling comfortable to share unguarded thoughts and feelings. Hallie Simon (‘20) made posts like this when she first created her finsta account in November 2016. Since then, she has minimized her posts of that nature, although she still sees her finsta as a place to vent.

“I’ll post something in the heat of being mad about something,” Simon said. “And then I’ll be like, ‘wait a second, I don’t want to post that anymore,’ and so then I’ll delete it.”

Vice President and Dean for Student Life Corey Landstrom recognizes the value that finsta accounts provide to students, but sees a problematic side to them as well.

It’s honestly a diary. I used to write in my journals; I don’t anymore. I just post everything on finsta.

-Meron Abebe (‘22)

“Emotional release is important, but the need for emotional release does not entitle a person to engage in conduct that is abusive, threatening, intimidating, harassing, or coercive,” Landstrom said. “We encourage students to connect with resources on campus to help them find more constructive tools with which to manage their emotions.”

The process of deciding whether or not students’ posts are displaying conduct that is “abusive, threatening, intimidating, harassing, or coercive” is complicated when considering the intent of the person making the post. Some students feel that what they post on their finsta accounts should not be taken completely literally.

“Finstas shouldn’t be taken as seriously as rinstas because they’re not intended to be serious or legitimate posts,” Abebe said. “I feel like different types of social media have different types of context, and they carry different weight as to what you post.”

Landstrom said the current Code of Conduct can be used to address finsta accounts and there are no plans as of now to create special parameters for this kind of social media platform.

Simon believes students should remain accountable for the posts, despite the objective in posting them. This is in part because she understands that posts can be screenshotted and shared, which was the case for Loy.

“There is free speech, but there’s no freedom of consequences because of your speech,” Simon said. “And I think some people sort of forget that. You can’t post things and not expect people to take it a certain way which means they can take it physically out of that community, in the way that they can screenshot it and take it to other people that don’t follow you.”

According to Loy, finsta accounts can be helpful when there is trust between all parties interacting with each other.

“While the internet is a very public place, it doesn’t have to be,” Loy said.

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