Author: Cassandra Lopez, URMND Contributor
I am no professional. I don’t completely know how brains work; I mean mine isn’t even fully developed yet. I can’t diagnose anyone or offer healing words as you sit in a comfy chair across from mine. I can, however, observe. I have seen high school girls cry in Chipotle about overdue homework. I have seen class clowns lose the ability to even crack a genuine smile. In the old days when social media and phones weren’t even conceivable things, you would have to guess what these people were struggling through. As a friend you could want so badly to help, but that compassion didn’t always prevent efforts from becoming futile. Today, all you have to do is follow the right account.
Generation Z has single-handedly redefined self-help and created an eco-friendly diary. This phenomenon lives in millions of private accounts collectively called Finsta, or “fake Instagram”, with loyal followings of only the most elite friends and peers in one’s life. Technology has penetrated our lives in almost every aspect: in entertainment, communication, education. With less and less demand for the actual spoken word, this evolution of technology has made us adapt the way we express ourselves.
While the occasional spillage of tea or indirect backhanded comment may never be absent, there’s an underlying law of unconditional positive regard within the community of each account. You can be whoever you want, post whatever you want. Everyone’s finsta is different, a reflection of the individual whether it be an alter ego, true self, or just a small part they want to share. The range in severity of posts on this platform can be seen in pictures of tear-soaked faces juxtaposed to pictures of drinks from Tea Do captioned: “this is my crack”.
This freedom created a widespread sense of trust, allowing individuals to share freely. Finsta isn’t just a social medium, it’s an outlet. It gives students a place to show off their A’s and college acceptances. It gives young adults a lane of memories to scroll through. It gives teens the courage to try to understand and communicate their stresses, feelings of depression, or doubts.
This is best illustrated by the example the rapper Aminé set when he released the song “Dr. Whoever.” In a video on genius.com, Aminé states “Talking about mental health with your ****** is like weird or scary sometimes, especially in like black culture. So, this whole song is me telling you exactly how I feel at this very moment. I’m saying “Dr. Whoever” becasue it’s whoever’s listening to the song, that's who my doctor is...this whole song is a therapy session.”
Teens are having more and more difficulty dealing with such taxing stressors because of the emotions that they in turn evoke. Stress experienced during adolescence is greatly connected to fluctuations of self worth, purpose, and success. This is becoming glaringly evident with the increasing number of posts that feature mentions of declining mental health or internal happiness, especially during the academic school year. Instead of verbalizing hardships to family or friends, many make the choice to post about it. More often than not, the problem doesn't lie in how the teen deals with stress, but instead resides in their support systems or lack thereof. In many cases, Finsta acts as a surrogate support system. Each like or comment serving as at least some reassurance that we are being heard, being understood.
Finsta in a weird way can be defined as a love letter to high school and all the relationships that for four years were so important to us. A thank you note for the vulnerability we shared, the laughs we generated, and the support we gave. We welcomed each other into the lives we had outside of school, our “3 a.m. selves” to quote Alex Wolf. Through every bad day and bad selfie to match, we were simply there for each other in the ways we knew how to be. There has even been talk of keeping Finsta alive throughout college years just to be able to see how friends are holding up.
Romanticized interpretations set aside, a few Psych courses has made me look a little deeper into this ever spreading trend. When I inquired about the healthiness of this platform, DC-based Psychotherapist Christian Howard states that Finsta “can be healthy depending on the person using it.” Finsta isn’t by any means a cure for those dark and emotional times; it is merely a way to express them.
Posting may satisfy our instant gratification principle but has no substantial long term benefits. Howard offers some alternative outlets such as reading self-help books, participating in the arts, meditating, and therapy. Therapy tends to have the reputation of being a dead end, so she continues on to compare therapy to dating. You have to keep searching until you find your true match. Don’t give up; that someone is out there!
“Be mindful of perception, how you are branding yourself, and that even though your account may be private, it is still public,” says Howard. “Any types of media presence you have can affect you legally, financially, or even in the workforce. She stressed the importance of comparing yourself to only yourself, an easier-said-than-done task.”
In agreement to this, CEO of URMND, therapist and health journalist Ryan Brown stated that he feels like it always important to scale back and not rely on others to validate who you are as a person.
“Occasionally, take time away from the social media outlets and all of its influence to allow yourself to reflect and focus on things you have control over,” says Brown. “Be kind to yourself, and set constant reminders telling you that success, beauty, and excellence are not a one size fits all.”