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Teenagers are creating fake identities on Instagram called Finstas. Should we worry?

File photo – The Instagram app is seen on a screen of the telephone 3 August 2017.
(REUTERS)

An emerging trend on Instagram has experts raising a few eyebrows.

Teenagers create a fake Instagram account a Finsta, usually with a smaller group of friends and family members. They experiment with alternative identities, for example, behaves as a jock and messages about their performance before anyone else in the know. Or they post about a new passion for screamo rock, but they are not ready to let everyone know.

It is mostly harmless, but the trend can lead to a much more serious problem related to how teens perceive reality. As a psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva tells Fox News, teenagers would be able to take the feedback of an alternative identity online much too seriously.

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“It is a problem when teens create personas in order to appeal to others instead of creating persona’s that are coming out of itself,” she explained. “For example, a preppy teenager post pictures of themselves wearing goth clothing, posing in front of a wall with painted wings, is quite normal and healthy. A teenager who is struggling with self-image issues, posting photos of her body and the search for comments to define her sense of self-esteem is unhealthy.”

Dr. Ken Castor, a former youth expert and book author, says there is an inherent desire to project a version of ourselves that we want to convey that is not always accurate.

“For many teens, social media, projecting an alternate version of herself from an innocent, and often fun, experiment,” he says. “It is the avatar effect, which can be a man again, himself and search for a confirmation-rush of new networks. For some teens, however, a projected identity, lures them to a place to hide, where they are insensitive to the possible consequences, and lurk in more risky conversations and behaviors.”

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Jenna Clark, a Senior Behavioral scientist at Duke University, told Fox News it is not time to start worrying about Finstas, but it is time to start a discussion about them. It can lead to something they call identity politics, where expressed ideas are extreme.

“There are the risks of the online disinhibition effect – people can also free online, to the point where their self-expression goes too far,” she says. “This may lead people to construct identities that are more extreme values or perspectives than their true self tend to be. If a young person is rewarded with likes or reshares for the design of, say, an alt-right persona, they will be encouraged to elaborate on the method of self-expression.”

That said, there can be in creating a false identity online, says Clark. For some teens, it is too easy to be pigeon holes as, say, an athlete or a brainiac. A Finsta can help teens to understand that our identity is much more complex than that.

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“Having a larger, more complex identity – that is, with more values and aspirations that are important for the self – is actually protective in a lot of ways,” says Clark. “Someone who puts all their psychological eggs in one basket in the problems if their core self-concept is threatened. Think about the person who defines himself by intelligent: academic failure is a huge blow to their self-esteem. A well-rounded person who is also proud that they are sporty or creative will have other possible routes to success.”

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In the end, the goal is to avoid that extreme — having multiple personalities online, it will be hard to manage, and more difficult to interpret feedback. For some, one identity is enough.

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