Heard of a Finsta account?
If you’re an Instagram user, you’ve probably heard the term “Finsta”. Its short form for a fake Instagram account. Many teenagers today have finsta accounts and it’s a trend which has become more popular over the last 5–7 years. The reasons for setting up a finsta are many — You want your main Instagram account to be as perfect as possible, you parents keep tabs on the people you follow and chat with etc. Behind the wall of anonymity, people are more carefree with their finstas and their actions reflect their true tastes.
This trend is a fascinating one as it throws up a very fundamental question — Who is real you? Is it the person in your main insta with your actual picture and name or the person behind your finsta who is “anonymous”?
What is identity
Identity is defined as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is”. Over the centuries, as individuals we’ve mostly had a singular identity. You have a name which is paired to your picture and some identification number and more recently biometrics — and voila, that’s your identity. You use this identity for everything raging from setting up a bank account, applying for a job, voting, publishing an article, debating on topic etc. Having an identity is important as it helps identify you and things which are related to you. If you’ve used any database, it’s like the unique identifier to which all attributes are associated with.
Multiple but conflicting identities
People have multiple identities. This spans religion, gender, age, political inclination and the list goes on and on. The problem arises when there are contradictions between these identities. In the finsta example, a person might really like something, but because it contradicts with their primary identity, they are restricted to pursue it. While some people are comfortable with that contradiction, most people are not. A super simple and hypothetical example of this is children in a devote Christian family will not be encouraged to follow goth culture which includes dressing up in black and listen to heavy metal. If you think about it, this is the reason why kids are setting up finsta accounts.
The problem with single identity
For a long time, and even today, anonymity has had a negative connotation. By being anonymous, it’s automatically assumed that you’re trying to hide something and that you’re probably doing something wrong. As we have seen in many cases, defining right and wrong is a futile efforts and millions of hours are lost by people debating right vs wrong on social media. But the bigger problem is that by being “wrong” on a certain topic in the eyes of a few can have implications on absolutely unrelated aspects. Speaking up against a politician on social media may not be advisable and can result in you losing your job or getting an income tax notice, even though they are not related in any way. This is because it is the same identity who is speaking against the politician, working the job and paying tax. With today’s technology it is very easy to connects the dots. This is one of the biggest shortcomings of having a single identity. It suppresses people from acting for fear of being affected in other aspects of their life.
Multiple identities co-exiting through anonymity
Given that we can’t solve the right vs wrong battle, we can resolve the above challenge by having multiple identities which are not connected. To go back to the example of a finsta, there is no connection between the main and the fake account. To the average individual, it’s 2 different identities. To ensure they are truly disconnected, it’s critical for the finsta to be absolutely anonymous with no way to link it to the identity of the person behind the main account. By doing this, you can go ahead to voice your opinion about a theme using your finsta and not worry about implications in other aspects of your life. But it doesn’t end there. You can also build up a reputation faster by focusing on things which matter. In the online gaming universe, no one really cares who you are in the real world and that doesn’t matter at all. You are known by your user name (which rarely has anything to do with your actual name) and it’s that user name which gains reputation in the community.
Implications are endless
With the digital world booming it’s becoming easier and also important to have multiple disconnected identities. With cryptocurrency, you can build economic models using these identities. Take a moment to process that. Until now, it was impossible for an individual to receive money under 2 different identities. Even if you’re a DJ and you have a different stage name (Avici’s real name is Tim Bergling), you bank account is the same and you get paid in that. But in the digital world using cryptocurrency, you can have 2 independent identities and receive money. This changes the game! You can use one identity to voice your opinion on any topic and not fear losing salary connected to your second identity. You can have hundreds of these identities for different aspects of you life and I believe this will lead to better results and a more transparent world.
The finsta trend is an important one as it points to what is coming. Gen Z is more comfortable expressing their true identity but unfortunately the contradictions between identities is a legacy issue which will take much longer to change. The rise of fashion brands like Dolls Kill point towards people accepting the contradiction and moving on. On growing platforms like Reddit and Discord, you can see the use of identities which unique to the platform and disconnected from everything else on the online and offline world. As we move to a more decentralised world, this trend will accelerate. However, it’s very hard to imagine where this might take us and the deeper and long term implications of this trend.
This essay is a part of my 30 day writing challenge. You can read more about why I’m doing it here