In 2018, it’s well established that millions of people’s lives and relationships are formed and sustained through social media – and celebrities, they’re just like us. Except for the millions of pairs of eyes watching their every post, comment and like.

That’s where finstas, or ‘fake instagrams’, come in: anonymous and usually private accounts followed only by close friends, away from the public eye.

That’s not to suggest finstas are exclusive to the famous. Since Instagram updated their app to make switching between accounts more fluid in 2016, the finsta/rinsta (‘real instagram’) duopoly continues to rise in popularity.

A recent feature on i-D explored how finstas allow people to post more ‘authentic’ & less ‘curated’ posts without, ideally, the fears or anxieties that can come with branding yourself online to friends, enemies and the ambivalent. They come in many endless sub-genres.

There’s the alt-Tumblr account-esque emotional accounts; the thirst traps; the alt-reality account, á la Bella Hadid‘s short-lived Rebekka Harajuku; and then the meme or shit-posting page, like Lorde‘s now-defunct secret onion rings rating account.’ Or just a combination of all of the above.

Most of all, finstas are lawless by nature, a Westworld Instagram oasis where we can be whoever we want to be.

@onionringsworldwide, gone but not forgotten.

By nature, finstas are private accounts, their owner unknowable from the outside.

That means most of the ffinstas (‘famous finstas’. No, I’m kidding. That’s not a term) we know about aren’t truly finstas – they’re just alt-accounts. After all, Bella Hadid’s Japanese alter-ego was tagged on her main account, as was Justin Bieber‘s short-lived Coachella dopplegänger, Skylark Tylark.

Sklark’s dance-floor buddy Bella Thorne has at least two public ‘finstas’ she’s linked to on her rinsta: she’s previously linked to one for memes, one for selfies. Not exactly private.

Which brings us to the agonising two-part question: how do people find genuine celeb finstas, and, given they’re not meant for wide consumption, should you even be trying?

I mean, the answer to part two is obviously no. But we’ll spell it out by going into what’s been going down since Demi Lovato‘s fans unearthed her alleged finsta.

DEMIGOR-GONE FROM PUBLIC’S EYE

Demi Lovato fans allege that @Mm_82092 is the singer’s finsta. Within the fandom, it’s a fact, as photos were allegedly leaked from a follower for a period around September 2017.

That’s when the bio was updated to what it reads as now, “Whoever is leaking my PRIVATE pics can go fuck themselves“, followed by a literal definition of the word ‘private’.

But fans were convinced before before the leaks. First up, the accounts numbers correspond to her birthday – August 20, 1992. But secondly, the fans ‘knew’ because Lovato followed the account on her rinsta, leading fans to the page.

And once there, fans can see if there are any mutual connections between you and the account. If you follow ex-Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui or Nick Jonas, for example, you’ll see they both follow @Mm_82092.

Ergo, it’s likely to be an account of someone they all know. Putting aside the later leaked pictures as inadmissible evidence, the logic that leads us to think this is Lovato’s account is skipping a few steps.

While many Lovato fans watch from the outside, mapping out Lovato’s friendships as numbers go up and down, it’s clear the whatever this account is, it isn’t meant for us.  The privacy definition in the bio couldn’t make that clearer, though by the time you’re approaching super-fan conspiracy theory level of social media stalking, it should be clear you’re crossing a line.

Which is probably the lesson here: sleuthing makes us feel like Nancy Drews, but celebs deserve their finstas, and we probably don’t deserve to see them, no matter how big a fan we might be.

Image credit: Instagram.com/skylarktylark