"Wait, where are you uploading that?" I asked my then-18-year-old sister, as I watched her carelessly capture and caption a selfie on Instagram. The photo she had just taken was a close-up, blurry shot of her making a funny face — not exactly her usual aesthetic. "Oh, to my Finsta," she explained. "You should follow, it's inner-circle only." Fascinated, I followed up with a few questions: What is a Finsta? Who is a Finsta for? Do you follow your family members? Should you follow your partner? As I began to ramble, my sister just laughed. "Ims," she said. "You're, like, so old."
I was finally convinced to make a Finsta upon the revelation that I had begun solely using my primary Instagram account to promote myself professionally. This realization led to an internal crisis — as a writer and editor, I had already merged one of my creative outlets (the medium of the essay) with my professional pursuits. If Instagram were to join the fray, there would be nowhere left to explore my inner monologue. Where would I share intimate memories with friends and family if not to my feed? How could I express moments of crippling self-doubt if not to my story? At this point, my generation had seemingly turned away from Facebook, and Snapchat had been reclaimed by Gen Z. Desperate for a solution, I created my Finsta account.
At first, my primary use for Finsta was to share my most "emo" thoughts: complaints about politics, anxiety over an impending apocalypse, a bad hair day. I added about five close friends from high school, college, as well as my sister, who immediately followed up with a text.
"You're using Finsta wrong," she complained. "Everything is so sad! Try sharing funny moments from your day, too. There has to be a balance."
I took her advice and began incorporating silly occurrences from my day-to-day. This ranged from ridiculous texts from my mom, to outrageous comments made by my partner. For this reason, I chose not to add my parents, nor my partner, to my account. In fact, I didn't even tell them that it existed (although, to be fair, there's no way my parents know what a Finsta is). While they are, indeed, the people closest to me, I found that having an outlet to express how I feel without their judgment or any follow-up questions to be oddly refreshing.
My partner has never really found use for social media. From the beginning of our relationship, he vocalized his disdain for the performative nature of Instagram and made the decision to opt out. While he does have an active account open from when he was a senior in high school, he barely ever looks at it. However, he has also never made me feel bad about my own social media usage. He understands the appeal of using a platform like Instagram connect with readers and others in the industry, always volunteering to take or pose for a picture. We'd always respected each other's digital boundaries, which, in some ways, made keeping my Finsta private feel intuitive. The URL was already my domain (pun intended), while the IRL was his.
Still, I felt guilty about keeping my Finsta account from my partner. But I was able to rationalize the detachment by reminding myself that there were some jokes I shared on the account that he would never understand or appreciate — asides about body hair, witty comments about the wellness industry, clever one-liners about astrology (a topic that continues to infiltrate my life, but frankly, couldn't interest him less). The truth of the matter was — and still is — not allowing him to have access to my Finsta gave me an outlet to vent about everything in my life, including our relationship. It also provided me with a mechanism to update all of my friends at once, instead of texting every single one individually about my mental and physical state. This proved beneficial for both my loved ones and my well-being: The ability to articulate my thoughts, no matter how trivial or solemn, without a literal filter felt freeing. Taking a load off of my shoulders and sending it out into the virtual universe left me feeling lighter than I had in months.
As I began to chat with my friends and colleagues, I realized that a lot of users also find the separation to be healthy. "I love my partner of five years, but I like to reserve my close friends content for my actual close friends — it gives me space to whine about how boys are dumb, or about work- or friends-related things that he wouldn’t really get or appreciate," Tegan, 25, explains to me. "Plus, as I’m still in the process of defining my queerness within my different-gender relationship, I’m glad I have a space where I can talk about being queer without it inviting a whole 'relationship talk.' Sometimes, you just need to post a meme about cuffing your pants and tucking in your shirt, you know?"
As Tegan articulates, taking space to gripe and explore your identity can be an incredibly important self-discovery practice. However, as a dating editor, I know that every relationship is built on a foundation of communication, mutual trust, and respect. So, I resolved to discuss my second account with my partner, rather than keep it a secret. After all, my partner keeps a journal, and while I've never asked to read it, I wouldn't be offended if he let his roommate or sibling take a peek. Why should a Finsta account be any different?
Last weekend, my partner and I traveled from New York to Connecticut for a quick getaway. We were sitting outdoors, reading in shared silence, when he suddenly made a remark about the beautiful cloud formations lining the October sky. I took out my phone and, without thinking, snapped a picture. "I'm uploading this to my Finsta account," I told him. "It's a secondary, more personal Instagram account where I share random, private thoughts. Do you care that I don't have you on it?" He looked up from his book for a brief minute, considering my words. "Nope," he replied with a grin. "You do you."