Are finstas and hidden accounts the answer to pressure to be perfect online?

Do you delete posts because you second guess them too much? (Picture:

Just before I tweeted something banal, I found myself Googling the word ‘bleak’. I knew what it meant, but I was struck with panic: Had I used it incorrectly in the context of the tweet? Has the definition changed? Have I been using it wrong my whole life?

This attitude is symptomatic of a wider issue with anyone online – striving to be perfect. Or more accurately, not wanting to be called out for a mistake or a tone-deaf post.

It’s one of the reasons so many users have been urging Twitter to allow an edit button – to be able to filter out errors in spelling, grammar and inappropriate sentiments – despite all the problems this would pose.

We’ve become fixated on presenting a clean-cut, politically correct and constantly alert version of ourselves online, thanks to call-out culture, the potential for our mistakes to be spread and shamed and the real-life ramifications a poorly worded social media post can pose.

We know that one bad tweet can cut us off from opportunities, see us face months of abuse, or ruin our lives.

Famous people and those in positions of power are held to strict standards. They can be judged for tweets from years prior or picked apart for a spelling mistake in a hastily written post.

But while it makes sense for those with major influence to be held to account, many of us set the bar just as high for ourselves, feeling immense pressure to be unproblematic, free of any errors, and to fit everything we post into our manufactured ‘personal brand’.

Think of how often you may have deleted a post because you second-guessed it too much. Is it too controversial, too lewd, too uninformed?

How many times have you felt the niggling need to go back through all your old posts, just in case you were unknowingly offensive?

We’re afraid of looking stupid. And it’s not just with typos, it’s a fear of using the wrong word, problematic terminology, steering from socially acceptable personas, or posting something that could be misinterpreted or used against us.

There’s an immense pressure to be perfect online, from fitting essay-level sentiments that are inclusive, typo-free, and woke into 280 characters to artful selfies that can only remain on the grid should they receive enough likes.

To counteract this pressure to get everything right, some people have resorted to secondary social media accounts such as finstas – fake Instagrams – and locked Twitter accounts only accessible to a select few.

Tony, who says social media elicits a pressure to be beautiful and charming, has a finsta.

‘I started my finsta after I caught my friend posting on hers and I thought it looked funny,’ he tells

‘It’s the perfect place to take the piss out of Instagram culture and not worry about the anxiety over likes and validation. My finsta has 37 followers and they are all close friends of mine and so I don’t care about looking like an idiot.’

Could fake or private accounts be the solution to the pressure to be perfect online?

‘One of the reasons we aspire for perfection is to gain social capital,’ says psychologist Max Blumberg.

‘We understand ourselves by comparing to the behaviour of other people.

‘Putting up a level of perfection is about acquiring social status. It makes us feel less alone if we achieve this.

‘We love to delete evidence of our mistakes even when it’s as small as a spelling error because humans have a need to present themselves as perfect (whether to make friends, partners, be more likeable).’

Max says some are more prone to caring about their image than others.

‘Parents have a lot to do with it,’ he explains. ‘They need to give unconditional acceptance to their children so they don’t feel like they’re not good enough.

‘Children learn to strive for perfection for acceptance from their parents. People who do not like making mistakes on social media have low self-esteem and it also stems from not having been good enough for your parents.

‘It’s almost like hearing your mother’s voice ask you what you’re doing.

‘Competing for social status is a must-have for everyone hoping to go up the social ladder. If you’re going to make lots of mistakes, you’re not going to progress.

‘But what separates the top tier of those who have good social status to the intermediate and lower are other factors like looks, wit, the company they keep. Everyone aspires to be on that level (subconsciously or not).’

Professor Blumberg warns that chasing the level of perfection can be detrimental if you’re constantly inauthentic. Being too invested in the social ladder may make you less happy, he warns.

Zara Patel isn’t keen on uploading a polished version of herself online. She has a finsta to show her unfiltered self which contradicts her family and professional life.

‘My issue with social media came when my family began following me,’ she admitted to

‘Since then I don’t post anything seemingly controversial. My family is very religious and conservative.

‘Tired of bringing “shame” upon my family, I created a finsta. Everything you can imagine is on there.’

Zara is very careful with who she lets in. Her colleagues or distant friends do not know about the account. As a result she can say and do what she wants without fear of judgement.

‘It’s wonderful. I’ve created a small private village on a social media platform,’ she adds. ‘It feels as though I’m having 12 conversations all at once. Keeping up with friends is much more fulfilling when I can present my genuine self to those I love.’

Zara even uses polls to let her small circle of followers decide her life decisions. It might mean bad advice about an ex or an ill-advised haircut, but she’s not afraid to look unpolished.

Having a finsta or a second secret social media account isn’t just about being free of social constraints that prohibit problematic language. It’s about the freedom to look silly, whimsical, vulnerable. You can be a basic b*tch without judgement. Most of all, it’s a space where you’re allowed to grow and learn as you go without everything you post remaining publicly available.

In 21st-century cancel culture, it’s easy to ruthlessly dismiss those whose personal politics are messy and not aligned with ‘wokeness’. We expect everyone to just be socially conscious.

But no one arrives at wokeness without work. It’s a learning process.

That’s not to say problematic (read: offensive) language should be celebrated or embraced, or that we should unthinkingly post online – but our own self-editing process may mean we hold back and feel restricted as a result.

Sarah says people are too quick to judge the things we post, and often finds herself staying silent.

‘People online are too ready to be aggressive and call people out brutally instead of inquiring into what they meant by a comment,’ she says.

‘Sometimes I feel like it’s not worth posting because on some topics no matter what you say someone is going to pick a hole in it.

‘It’s sad we are not more kind to each other online and it’s sad that we are not more resilient.’

Instead of a knee-jerk reaction to cancel people who err in these areas, perhaps we could practise empathy and understanding and teach without virtue-signalling.

In this way, we may create healthier online habits. Because let’s face it, we’re never getting that edit button on Twitter. Maybe that’s a good thing.

But while we wait for the internet to become a kinder place, having a throwaway account where you can post freely – alongside your ‘official’ one where everything is curated – might be a solution.

It can be easy to say ‘just don’t post’, but these days this is not always a feasible option. An active online presence keeps you in the know, connects you to many different voices, offers conversation-starters, and can be required for work purposes.

It makes sense that just as we have our ‘professional selves’ and outside-of-work selves, we have a public-facing online character and a space where we can be freely ourselves.

With the latter, you can curate your your following and know you won’t be judged for using the wrong word.

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