Social Media Without the Dopamine

I have a finsta. If you didn’t know what that is, like WordPress’ spellcheck didn’t, it’s a fake or secret Instagram account, of which secret applies to mine.

It’s also a zinsta. If you didn’t know what that is, like WordPress’ spellcheck didn’t, and everybody else didn’t, it’s an Instagram account with zero followers, and is following nobody. Zilch. And still zilch after 100 posts as of today.

Now why would I do something like that in a mostly curated world meant to show yourself off to others, especially people you know, to feel good about yourself and the image you perceive others have of you? The answer is rather simple, actually. So simple it’s a one word answer – experiment, though the plural may be more accurate because I’m actually running a handful of experiment with this finsta.

In mid-June (2020), among the curiosities ever peppering my mind was the question of what my Instagram would look like if it reflected my life rather than themes in my life? I have multiple Instagram accounts of the latter, only because of Instagram’s inability to organize content that has been the thing I’ve always disliked the most about Instagram. There was no way I could easily show someone just my fashion designs, origami, quotes, art, cooking, among other interesting everyday life activities, if I wanted to from only one Instagram account. However, having had multiple Instagram accounts while friends generally had one, some following more than one of mine out of kindness, I could not justify telling them about another. I would ask them to follow me yet again, but it’d have been interpreted as a subtle request. Otherwise, why would I have even told them about it?

In not telling people I knew about my finsta, which I had no idea was either word or thing until I heard rumours about Barack Obama’s finsta (term #2480 learned this year), I saw an opportunity for some experimental fun. For starters, to me, having a little secret by choice is always fun. I also saw a chance to see if I could keep social media algorithms from connecting my finsta to my other social presence, and thus alerting people I knew to it. Finally, I could see how general Instagrammers would react to my messy self, diverse and uncurated, as well as how I would react to that. That’s what I had planned initially, but was open to other experimental opportunities if any arose.

The secret keeping wasn’t hard, and fun as expected.

The algorithm deception required a reboot after a few weeks, after I used an email not well-known to people, but which I had used to receive documents I emailed myself to back up in case of hacks to my commonly used email. Those algorithms linked my other social media to the common email sending docs to the finsta email, and started showing a few people I knew that account. Those algorithms are good! However, I got around them the second time by using an email solely dedicated to the finsta registration, on an Opera browser I have never used for anything else. That said, I kept the finsta among the other accounts I had on the app, and it did not betray the finsta to followers I had on the other accounts. Having an Instagram app solely for the finsta was an inconvenience I wasn’t sure I’d put up with, since that would mean having one device with Instagram solely for the finsta, and I’m not keen on having more devices than I need. My Instagram app not betraying the finsta to others I knew was a pleasant surprise, indeed!

As for the Instagrammer reaction to my finsta, there was very little. There were few Likes, if any, to most posts, and no real followers. I’ve blocked about a dozen which had few or no posts, or following thousands or more people. I deemed them to either be bots, or people hoping to get followers by following tons of people, hoping some will blindly follow back, or feel obligated to out of nicety as if exchanging pleasantries. Those followers all came in the first few months, though, and there hasn’t been any for months now. It probably didn’t help that I followed nobody, either. Who would want to be the first follower of an account that had no followers and was following nobody, likely meaning it won’t follow them back if they followed the account? The algorithms probably weren’t keen on suggesting my finsta to others, either, with that “popularity” and “social media misanthropy”.

As for my reaction to this relative non-response from Instagrammers? Disappointed would be way too strong a word to describe it. Instead, I propose unpleasantly surprised, from how easy it seemed my themed Instagram accounts got unknown followers, real ones that had active accounts and kept following me instead of disappearing within days like some ploys to try and gain followers. It was genuinely that reason for which I had the negative feeling, rather than my ego getting dented because upon first assessment after month, I took up a new experiment to see how I would feel if I kept posting and getting the same response. I wanted to see if I would eventually be prone to whatever was ailing all these people, especially millennial, whose sense of identity and self-worth was based on how many followers they had. Many even deceive themselves of it by buying fake followers, which are not expensive ($13-$36 US per 1000)! I wanted to see if I could only avoid this syndrome, but show those insecure people what “security” looked like.

Five months after taking up the security assessment, I am still posting away. My joy in posting on social media is more the documentation of some experience, rather than getting the approval for it. It has always been, actually, since I have always considered my posting on Facebook to be the best journal I had access to, with anywhere from 10% to 25% of my Facebook friends seeing most of my posts over the years, rather than most or all friends, or even all Facebook users who happen on my account. I don’t know why I didn’t realize this with my finsta posting, but it served to affirm that which I already believed, and more confirmation is always good with beliefs. My social media comes without the dopamine, in other words, from seeing the approval of others, at least by intent. I’m sure I get some dopamine when I see reactions to my posts, but I’m not dependent on it. If I got any, the doses that count most come from posting, not getting reactions. To further prove it to myself, I went from posting on Facebook on about 97% of days prior to this year, to just 31% of days this year, including stretches for weeks without posting, and wasn’t phased one bit to have to “try” to not post once I made the commitment. Posting elsewhere, like on my zinsta finsta that had next to zero eyes on it, kept me just as happy. Well, except for that lack of organization on Instagram, but that’s an externality.

So now comes the hardest part all this, do I share my finsta to validate my story, and risk having people follow it to ruin my zinsta fun, or just keep it finsta and likely zinsta? After thinking about it between paragraphs, it turns out to be an easy decision. Despite the 700+ followers I have on this blog, and all the users who come to this site, few actually read random posts like this that don’t contain something specific they’re seeking. Further, I don’t think any of those followers are people I know, so I’m not worried about any influx of people ruining my zinsta finsta fun. So I will share my finsta, asking you not follow it, and warning that if you did, you might get blocked! I’m not sure I will stoop that that, or immediately so on a rash move, but don’t say I didn’t forewarn you!

So without further a do, my zinsta finsta…

1349 words


Please click here for more writings from my 2021 writing journey.

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