Linda leaned against the glass window of a used book store, her cheeks painted red under the gleaming neon light. The glowing “BOOKS” sign reflected in her tiny white shades which were balanced precariously at the edge of her nose. She peered over them in the direction of the camera, grinning. The accompanying caption was the starting point for many jokes to be had throughout her account: “She can’t read”. This was mostly amusing due to the fact that I was Linda, a then-junior English Literature student.
It was my roommate that came up with the tasteful name, Linda, as soon as I put on those white shades for the first time in an Urban Outfitters. They were so unlike me, a girl who exclusively wore black. They were a very “bitchy accessory” that drew attention. With their encouragement, I created a finsta (a fake Instagram account) embodying Linda and her bold fashion choices– the list of which grew gradually as I was in New York City after all.
Is having an alternative online persona or a finsta dishonest? We’ve moved on from thinking that everything we are being presented online is genuine. We know social media warps our expectations of each other and is not a true reflection of someone’s reality (although there has been a call for users to show more authentic versions of themselves).
I pressed ‘share’ more times in a day than I blinked.
Having an alias, finsta account, spam twitter or any other side account allows you to let loose. I believe that they allow you to explore different parts of yourself. Your unbothered side, that unironically enjoys Tik Tok videos, gets to shine through. Or your liberal views get to be made known despite the sternness of your conservative home. Who is to say which is more authentic? And does it matter?
In my online persona case of Linda, I could play with inside jokes. I could post whatever I wanted whenever I liked. Gone were the days where I had worried about any curated scheme or began overthinking about whether the content seemed like ‘me’. I didn’t have to care if people from high school (who I don’t even speak to anymore) or my mother’s cousin’s nephew’s friend got the ‘wrong idea’ about me.
Having an alias, finsta account, spam twitter or any other side account allows you to let loose.
My online persona was confined to my private finsta account and I only followed people close to me. I enjoy having a page that I can look forward to posting on. It wasn’t about the likes or comments. It was about the joy that came with the account itself. The fact that it was clearly a finsta made it clear that I was saying, “Don’t take me seriously. Not here at least”.
In propagation for finstas, I’d like to make it known that the ‘share’ button is always a site of anxiety for me. That looming moment just before you press it often fuels a lot of tension within. I know that it isn’t a real social interaction, not in the same way as a handshake. But it would rather be eternalized in the digital realm – something a finsta can combat. Having an alternative persona allowed me to overcome this anxiety and let me share whatever came to mind. I pressed ‘share’ more times in a day than I blinked. If the post contained a poor fashion decision or an ill-received spoken word video, it was Linda’s doing.
In my experience as a Muslim woman, we, as well as other women with more conservative backgrounds, use finstas and online personas as a personal outlet. An alternative account is seen as a haven away from the male gaze or even their family’s eyes. The accounts become a way to have a presence online while also remaining private.
Other friends of mine use twitter accounts with aliases to release any pent up thoughts. They read like journal entries. They aren’t forgetting who they actually are or trying to fool anyone. Instead, it is simply a space for us to put ourselves out there while not fearing anyone’s judgement.
The accounts become a way to have a presence online while also remaining private.
There is the fact that any of these side-accounts could turn into a breeding ground for gossip. I can’t deny that I haven’t seen the dark side of being unfiltered and unencumbered by social judgement. People tearing each other down behind aliases and exploiting anonymity to be cruel to those around them or other strangers. But there is a potential for so much more.
We need these spaces. We need to be under-the-radar and ourselves…or maybe someone else entirely. It may be an illusion, but finstas and alternative accounts do feel more private and personal. Linda can attest to this.