Where does finsta come from?
Finstagram is a portmanteau of fake and instagram. It started appearing on social media in late July 2011. At this time, a handful of Twitter users who posted photos in their tweets dubbed their posts finstagrams to account for the fact that they were using the site as someone might use the then-newish photosharing app Instagram.
Soon after this, it also humorously appeared alongside images of fish as a pun on the term fin. This use included both real and metaphorical fish, such as the football team the Miami Dolphins.
While it’s not certain, the word likely gained its current meaning some time in 2013, and in the same year, finstagram got its own entry on Urban Dictionary. It began to get more attention in 2014 and onward, before it attained mainstream media coverage in mid- and late 2015. Since then, finstagram’s popularity has increased steadily.
Just as Instagram is sometimes shortened as insta, finstagram is often shortened as finsta.
Who uses finsta?
People who use the words finsta or finstagram are very likely to be teenagers or 20-somethings. The existence of a finsta is representative of people’s need to carve out a private, intimate space in an increasingly public social media landscape.
A finsta may be more personal and could contain insight into a user’s actual life, as opposed to the filtered and polished experience that their main account offers. For example, someone’s finsta might include inside jokes and silly pictures. They might also be inclined to post photos, especially selfies, more frequently. This kind of behavior might not be possible on their main account, which might be bound by self-imposed rules or community expectations.
Finstagram’s natural companion and direct contrast is rinstagram, or “real Instagram.” A rinstagram account is a user’s main account and will typically have more followers than one’s finstagram account. A rinstagram offers a very polished, performative, and cultivated experience. The pressure of maintaining a rinstagram account is what drives some users to create a finsta as a means of escape. Unlike a finsta, which is for a user’s close friends, a rinsta is intended for a wider audience and/or for one’s parents.
On Instagram itself, the word finstagram often appears as the hashtags #finstagram or #finsta. Like the term Instagram, finsta or finstagram can be used as a verb to mean “to post something to one’s finstagram account.”
“I'm excited to be home for the summer because I'll be around my sis 24/7 & have so much more material for my finsta”
Sydney Forgey @s_forgey45 Twitter (April 21, 2017)
“If I had an Instagram people would automatically assume it was my finstagram that's how bad my face is at pictures.”
Tina @tinahermanita Twitter (April 21, 2017)
“Because they are locked, finstagram accounts allow you to screen your followers; no one can follow you without your permission.”
Valeriya Safronova, “On Fake Instagram, a Chance to Be Real,” The New York Times (November 18, 2015)