If you think you know a lot about your child/sibling/friend because you are on their social media, think again. Waves of younger millennials are creating multiple social media accounts for themselves, and they have completely different personalities for the different network of friends or followers.

Take Instagram. Many are creating multiple Instagram accounts, or as they like to term it, Finstagram or Rinstagram.

Finstagram, a combination of the words Fake and Instagram, is a private account where users keep the number of followers small and limited to close friends only. Also, you know it’s a legit term when Urban Dictionary defines it. The opposite of Finstagram (Finsta for short) is Rinstagram, the main account that’s usually kept public and allows anyone to follow them.

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Image Source: The Pride

Since social media is usually used as a tool to share snippets of our lives with other people, it seems a tad strange that one would need two or more accounts. Even this social media junkie baulks at the idea – it sounds like way too much work.

The Pride spoke to a few of these youths to better understand their viewpoints. In the case of 17-year-old Rachel*, she had found use for four Instagram accounts. Apart from her Rinstagram and Finstagram, she also has two others to share about her music and holiday escapades respectively.

Just why do our youths bother upkeeping two, or more, online faces? Celine Edmund, a counselling psychologist at Singapore Personal Counselling Service, told The Pride that younger millennials may exhibit multiple personalities but it’s more about negotiating their social identities rather than signs of a clinical disorder.

She said, “One reason why youths do this is to differentiate between their true self and ideal self and to create a space where they can post whatever they want without any conflict of interest.”

Avoiding confrontation is a key motivation for 17-year-old Darren* to maintain a Finstagram where he keeps just 48 followers comprising his close friends and cousins. In his own words, it’s “a side of him no one sees”, especially his older relatives whom he doesn’t think will take kindly to the use of vulgarities in his rants.

Young people face multiple sources of stress these days, and this is especially pronounced on social media, where its openness creates the desire to live up to the expectations and ideals of others. It may sound like quite the effort, but Darren is not alone in wanting to maintain a different image for his relatives. A study conducted by McAfee found that 70% of teens have taken some sort of action to hide their online behavior from their parents.

In comparison, it is business as usual on his Rinstagram, where he shares memorable moments of his life like most others. Here, his posts are curated carefully and he observed, “Even some of my captions are thought through. There is some sentimental value and I’m proud enough to share them on my Rinstagram.”

Late last year, we saw social media star Essena O’Neil abruptly quit social media. Her famous last words to her half a million Instagram followers were “social media is not real”. As a model for top brands, the pressure of keeping up that perfect veneer with highly edited photos and painstakingly curated posts had pushed her to breaking point.

Her parting shot sought to shatter the hype that too many attach towards building an impressive image of the life they were living. “Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement.”

It could also be that some awareness of these heavily filtered lives that we encounter on social media is what drives today’s youths to keep Finstagram accounts.

For Rachel, her main account may boast a following of some 1,000 users but she rarely posts there. In contrast, her private page is cosy with just 20 followers, but it is there that she feels comfortable enough to voice out when she’s feeling down and express her thoughts. In her own words, “I don’t want to be judged. I know that those I voice to on my private account are there to comfort me and they wouldn’t judge me”.

When asked why she still keeps her main account despite posting more on her private account, she said that it was because most of her friends still own a public account.

Perhaps, the different faces our youths show online is just another manifestation of how most people present themselves differently in front of family, colleagues or different groups or friends. Their different personas come through in the form of their multiple accounts.

While some worry that people now substitute real-life relationships for virtual connections, Finstagram could well be our youths’ own rebellion against this, navigating the vast online unknown by creating pockets of safe zones for themselves.

In effect, this new trend of Finstagram accounts may strengthen the bonds that are already formed, in contrast with the bad rap that social media tends to get for being the crime scene of cyberbullying. Although more research will still need to be conducted, Finstagram has the potential to deliver on the benefits associated with social networks, such as adolescents fostering a stronger sense of their individual identity and improving their social skills by participating in social media.

So, is social media making Jekyll and Hydes of our youths? I’m going to say no.

From what I see, they value their privacy and are using the platform to better their lives in their own unique way.

*Names changed to protect the youths’ privacy and multiple Instagram accounts.