I Used Social Media Like an 11-Year-Old, and It Changed My Life
My 11-year-old sister Alison has the most sophisticated social media strategy of anyone I know. She has her Finsta account (that’s fake Instagram, more on that below), her Slime accounts (separate Instagram accounts where she posts surprisingly satisfying videos of homemade “slime” ), plus, of course, her regular Instagram which, from here on out, will be referred to as a Rinsta—we’re going full tween here, people. She also has her Snapchat account and a Music.ly account (kind of like Dubsmash but longer song clips, complete with visual and sound effects) but, thankfully, no Facebook yet. Before her tween years, she also had a few Instagram accounts where she and her friends rated beauty products from Bath and Body Works. (I kid you not.)
As a 23-year-old, my relationship to social media is pretty much what you'd expect: I have an Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook account. Instagram for posting fun photos and showing off my "cool New York City lifestyle" (ie photos of Sugarfish sushi or a snap from a fancy work event), Snapchat for the ugly selfie featuring a brand new pimple, and Facebook for food videos and remembering birthdays.
Not only does my younger sister have far more apps and platforms to keep up with, but she uses them differently, too. She keeps only 12 Instagram posts up on her Rinsta: "artsy" photos featuring plenty of color, Snapchat-filtered selfies, and of course, a photo with her camp friends. But, she will snap blurry selfies and photos of our dog all day long on her Finsta, colored with hilarious captions only an 11-year-old could come up with: "Vvvv bored but listening to good music so it's gucci." Or: "This is actually the best pizza in the world like Potomac pizza in bomb." She types out whatever is on her mind, and sends it out into the digital world.
Kids, amirite? But, perhaps my pint-sized sister was onto something. So, in the name of social media, I began snapping, Finsta'ing, and Rinsta'ing like my 11-year-old sister. We sat down together over Facetime, her favorite at-home activity, and came up with a list of rules for me to follow for the week.
On Snapchat I need to send SNRs every day—a quick selfie to the "Steaks and Recents" on my friend list. "Always put geotags because they look cute," Ali told me. "And the first sliding filter is the one that looks best." Noted. On Instagram, "going live" is apparently a thing all the kids do these days, "but only if you're doing something fun like baking or making slime." Instagram posts should be "artsy not random" and only stuff that's recent because according to my sister, "no one wants to see photos from last summer on the beach." It's very important to always comment something sweet–“so pretty,” “I love you,” “I miss you"–on your friends' posts, and you have to like the comments they leave on your own Rinsta.
Finstagram is a different story. "Don’t let boys follow you because they’ll see your ugly face," Ali told me with a laugh, "and spill everything. Say things like 'so bored Facetime me.' Basically, be annoying until someone texts you and keeps you busy." Ali also explained that your Rinsta is a good place to get caption ideas and to tell your friends to go like your post recent post. "And post however much you want."
With my list of rules at hand, I dove in headfirst and made a Finsta. Alison helped, of course; she came up with my new handle: “its.jay.okay.” I had only 40 followers and all the freedom in the world.
I woke up and immediately sent my "SNRs," to no response. Womp. I had a feeling it was mostly due to my friends having no idea what SNR means.
The day was pretty uneventful, so there wasn't much for me to share on my first day of the experiment. I got home that night and decided it was time for my first Finstagram, a post-workout selfie that got more comments than my usual amount, giving me the confidence to post another, within the same hour! A few selfies (and one shelfie) later, I was really feeling this whole Finsta life.
I held off on sending a Snap to my SNRs (Streaks and Recents), discouraged from the lack of response yesterday, but I did notice that I had salvaged a few of my streaks thanks to the snap. No anxiety-inducing hourglass emojis here! Eventually, I caved, sending out a blurry selfie captioned "SNR!!!" to my top Snap friends on my walk to the subway (no replies again save for my boyfriend calling me crazy, thanks, babe).
I had big plans for my Finsta and Snapchat, today, as I had a snazzy work event to attend. As I was making the trek uptown in the rain, I realized I had the perfect opportunity for a blurry selfie, a la Ali.
When I arrived at the event, I couldn't believe my good fortune: An Instagram-worthy view. Ok, maybe not it wasn't Rinsta-material, but it was perfect to post on my Finsta and Snapchat since I definitely wanted to show off my plans for the night.
Days 4, 5, and 6:
Time for the weekend, aka so many Finsta and Snapchat opportunities! I was heading home to visit my boyfriend, but I knew it would be a relatively chill weekend as we were dog sitting for his parents in my hometown. I Snapchatted an annoying amount of selfies with a variety of filters, and Finsta'd my way through the weekend, posting photos from our brunches and dinners: again, not pretty enough for Rinsta, but I was killing it with my Finsta.
I started off my Monday with a round of blurry SNR selfies to my Streaks and Recents, and finally got a response! My friend messaged me back, "I have no idea what that means lol," so I explained, and told her about my social media experiment, to which she responded: "So fun!" The week was starting off on a high note, thanks also in part to the amazing weather, which I had to document on my Finsta.
After work, I spent the day running some errands near my apartment and got a great shot of Central Park right around sunset, but since then I've been trying to be less basic with my sunset Instagrams, I knew it was the perfect Finsta post.
I also made my first "big girl purchase" that day (bless you, tax returns!) and showed off my brand new bucket bag to my 40 finsta followers with a slightly obnoxious caption, but I didn't care to edit my thoughts—it's just my Finsta, and my real friends know the real me.
By now, I was really feeling this Finsta life, confidently posting selfies and whatever other objects or scenes caught my attention. The whole experiment turned out to be surprisingly cathartic. I got to share everything with only my closest friends, without worrying about likes, the lighting, or if my skin looked clear enough.
I captioned my selfies and photos with whatever random thought had prompted the post—no overthinking here! Plus, my Finsta let me share things that I definitely would not post on my own Instagram, but that I wanted my friends to see for more than seven seconds before it disappeared, like on Snapchat. That said, Snapchat is still my go-to for anything too scandalous for my family, given that my 11-year-old sister was the one who helped set up this Finsta, and follows me along with a few of her friends.
My social media tendencies haven’t changed completely. When I post on my Rinsta, I am only thinking about the likes and the quality of the photo, but when it comes down to it, I don’t really hold back or specifically curate the type of content I share. If I like a photo, and it’s good quality, I’ll post it. But now, my Finsta is a nice second option for those random thoughts on my commute to work, a brag-worthy free-table find, or a plate of food that tastes amazing, but might not look so delicious. Now, Instagram isn’t just for my pretty, edited life, there's also a space for my real one, too.