How ‘Finsta’ Became the New Online Diary for College Students

“Finsta” || Graphic created by Brent Buterbaugh

“Finsta” || Graphic created by Brent Buterbaugh


Before the social media revolution, paper diaries were home to a teenage girls’ personal feelings and experiences. These days, social media platforms have become a modern diary – serving as an outlet for these same feelings and experiences. 

When adults and family members found their way into these apps and platforms, they started to become less attractive to young teens craving privacy and a need for self-expression. 

That’s how Finsta – a combination of the words fake and Insta(gram) – was born.

“A Finsta is a second, private Instagram account,” said Bethanie Arriola, a freshman at King’s. “You typically only let people you really know follow it, and you post things that you couldn’t really post on your main account.” 

As a frequent Finsta user, Deja Judie, a freshman at Tarrant County College in Texas, said, “I have my family on my main and just close friends on my Finsta. That way, if I need to get something off my chest or post something that I don’t want my family to see, I can still do it.” 

Finstas prove to be an outlet for teens and Millennials across the globe in need of space to explore their feelings and experiences. The likes and views on their post validate their feelings and make them feel seen and heard, though experts argue that this validation is only short-term. These posts can range anywhere from blurry candid shots to embarrassing moments to drunken dance videos that teens believe deserve to be seen – although not by too many. 

For others, like Alex Rankin, a freshman at Sam Houston State University in Texas, their Finstas emerged as a need for self-expression. 

“I mainly made my Finsta so that I have somewhere to vent about things going on in my life, kind of like an online diary,” she said. “I like to post about my days, new boys, struggling at school, and sometimes when I’m really going through it, I’ll post an emotional rant.” 

An example of a Finsta profile belonging to Erica Snow || Contributed by Erica Snow and Hannah Gillihan

An example of a Finsta profile belonging to Erica Snow || Contributed by Erica Snow and Hannah Gillihan

Taylor Mintz, a freshman at King’s, said she thinks of her Finsta as a “small collective of my brain shared with 20 or so people who think I’m funny and want an occasional update on my mental wellbeing.” 

College students will post about anything and everything on their mind, believing their Finsta to be a safe space in which they can vent. The beauty of it, users said, is that though they’re posting incredibly personal information, their followers are seeing and engaging with it – an act of validation for their feelings. 

Kay Estell, a psychotherapist who specializes in child development, questioned why teens would be motivated to do this. 

“I’ve always wondered why people post about things,” she said. “It’s like, ‘well, am I going to feel any better if I have 20 people say they liked what I wrote?’” 

She said that teens are using social media platforms as a diary because they don’t seem capable to have emotional connections with people in person anymore. She said they have a “fast-food mentality.”

“I want what I want when I want it,” she said of teens.  

Estell argued that while it isn’t terrible to put all of your emotions and experiences on a second Instagram account, it’s preventing some people from reflecting and talking about their problems with the people closest to them. So, she said, users “go on Instagram, the only medium they know, and post about their lives because they so desperately crave that emotional intimacy.”