The pains of sharing a photo on Instagram are almost never ending. A pimple too big, a filter too “cheugy” and a smile too large can all be deemed a final flaw. Even after finding the right photo, there is still the aesthetic to consider — pulling and twisting a photo you love to fit into the dollhouse that is your profile page. This pre-post step is mandatory: You have to clean up the clutter in an image, so it can perfectly occupy an ornate frame like an open house nightmare.
To be honest, this elaborate process is all too much for me. I haven’t posted on Instagram in, like, a year. Or, well, I haven’t posted on my “main” account that is. During the summer, I cultivated my “fake Instagram,” a.k.a finsta, as a chaotic conglomeration of bad poetry and midnight escapades to all 10 of my followers. This smaller, private account allowed me to vent about my feelings and post about private life in a way that my main account could never allow. Why in the world would I want my aunt — one of my many main-Instagram followers — to know when I’m clubbing, cruising and crashing?
Unlike Facebook, there is a level of anonymity that is fostered on Instagram. You’re allowed to have multiple accounts under the same contact information. In fact, these accounts aren’t considered connected to each other, giving the Gen Z user the freedom to make as many niche, obscure accounts as their heart desires. And the birth of finsta was inevitable after Instagram became mainstream. When you have hundreds of followers, finding a post that makes everyone happy is overwhelming. What might be funny to your college friends is “blasphemy” in the eyes of your uncle.
As opposed to these anonymous, niche accounts, the level of reality depicted on main Instagram accounts is abysmal. There is a saturated market for face editing apps. There are websites that will create special instagram caption fonts for your next post. On some apps, you even have the ability to track how and when your followers frequent your account.
But running a personal Instagram shouldn’t feel like being a marketing manager. Consolidating photos that are cohesive to your account’s “aesthetic” can look super cute, but is it true to oneself? To get those photos means leaving parts yourself out of the picture. Setting up photos at brunch feels a little artificial if you wouldn’t be caught awake before 1 p.m. on a weekend.
Social media shouldn’t feel limiting. Posting on your main page shouldn’t feel like adding set pieces to a retail display. It should feel like sharing what you love with people who care.
Sure, I have that sense of authentic closeness among my 10 finsta followers, but at what cost? Why lead this Hannah Montana fantasy — with girl-next-door Miley on a finsta and popstar Hannah on the main — when it is easier to just cultivate an authentic digital persona on one main account? Crusty dog photos, crying selfies and all?
Gen Z has taken note of these questions, and Instagram culture has shifted. People don’t use their finstas as much, maybe because the pandemic showed just how tiring performing on social media can be in the end. Now, mains are messier — in a good way.
It starts out small. A post of a sunset is met with a Vine (a.k.a. an extinct TikTok predecessor) quote. Suddenly, Twitter screenshots are used to punctuate the ends of slideshow posts. You repost content from @umichaffirmations more often. Insta stories are now home to Spotify recommendations and blurry candid photos.
I appreciate the candidness of the people I follow. Their mains are messy in a way that a room is lived in. Sometimes you don’t make your bed, and that is okay. Sometimes you have pit stains when taking a selfie, and that is also okay. Your pit sweat shouldn’t kill your happiness just like the assortment of cups that adorn your room isn’t clutter, but chic. I mean, my room right now is college-core, raccoon-eye chic; interior design is not my main concern.
The spaces we exist in shouldn’t be ready-made store displays. Instagram shouldn’t feel like the dorm room shown to you during a campus tour. Social media is not the room where all your dirty clothes, mismatched socks and retainers are thrown in the closet. That is so 2015.
Let the chachkas you love and collect bathe in the sun. For so long, I thought social media was a thing to be graded or gawked at. But it can be something to explore and grow into when you get messy on main.
Daily Arts Writer Matthew Eggers can be reached at email@example.com.