It’s no secret that many high schoolers today have turned to social media as a means of expressing themselves. According to Amanda Lenhart, author of Pew Research Center’s 2015 report about teenagers and internet and social media trends, approximately 76 percent of teens identified as social media users.
And with the number of social media users and connectivity on the rise, there seems to be a greater obligation for students to self-regulate what they post online. One such method of combatting increasing publicity has been the birth of the ‘finsta.’
As defined by Daniel Patterson of The Huffington Post in a 2016 article titled “What The Finsta?! The Darker World Of Teenagers And Instagram,” a ‘finsta’ is “a fake (or second) Instagram account, primarily used to hide scandalous and overtly sexual behavior [or] cultivate an alter ego.”
The world of ‘finsta’ is dominated primarily by teenage girls, who often select sexually suggestive usernames, Patterson explains.
While surely not all private—secondary Instagram accounts are created as an outlet for posting sexual content—it does appear that the overwhelming reasoning behind CHS students creating these accounts is to fulfill a fix for posting photos and videos which would normally raise eyebrows.
“I have parents and my church following my regular one and I wanted to have the freedom to post things they may not like,” a senior girl says.
Another student says, “I let people my age who I knew well follow me and denied anyone I thought might snitch,” admitting that she was afraid of being found out for the illicit content which was often featured on her feed.
Private accounts also have the appeal of a more intimate environment to post photos specifically tailored to a smaller group of closer friends, allowing for the posting of inside jokes and spontaneous moments, as another CHS student notes.
Nevertheless, there are associated risks with every form of social media in which a student engages. For instance, athletic director Golden Anderson acknowledges the fact that nothing on social media is ever entirely private.
“[Nothing’s] invisible. Once it goes out, it’s somewhere, and somebody can get to it,” he says. “There’s nothing that is not permanent on social media.”
And right he is. It is common knowledge that a photo can be widely dispersed regardless of its origin, thanks to the facile art of screenshotting. Nothing on a private Instagram account is exempt from being screenshot and saved into the camera roll of followers, or even distributed or reposted for a larger audience to view.
People also seem to forget and neglect the fact that there is no way to monitor who physically sees a post. As Anderson declares, “Anybody can be standing there with their ‘friend’ that you’re not ‘friends’ with, looking at stuff on your page.”
He cites an example from the 2015-2016 school year, in which conspicuous party videos connected with members of the girls’ varsity basketball team were brought to the school’s attention, exhibiting the dangers behind any form of posting.
“It was a video that was videoed off of a phone. It became this game of telephone,” the athletic director recalls, clearly exemplifying the concept that any post—regardless of how ‘private’ it may be—can be disseminated and bring trouble.
With current technology, many search engines exist for digging up inappropriate posts, as was the case with a teenage girl in Louisiana, who was brought to court in 2013 after being found to have posted photos of marijuana on Instagram, according to Darlene Storm of Computer World.
And college admissions poses another huge problem for students who recklessly post. Counselor Jeff Schatz, who has extensively researched the role of social media in college admissions, has found that post discoveries made by college admission officers negatively affects student admission in nearly 35 percent of all cases.
Schatz also warns of the lifelong consequences a momentary lack of judgment can bring.
“Most students have worked really hard to develop a reputation and a resume that reflects their values, efforts and accomplishments,” the counselor suggests. “But it only takes a moment, an inappropriate post, a photo or statement that reflects poor judgement to ruin that reputation.”
Some students have realized the threat of exposure themselves.
“I chose to delete [my private account] because I realized I could get in a lot of trouble for the pictures that had drugs and alcohol in them, and I didn’t want to risk it,” one senior recalls.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that nothing on the internet is ever private, and in an increasingly technological era, it is ever-important to think before you post anywhere.