by Claire Brennan
The Instagram world has unwritten rules of what you should share and what you should keep in your camera roll. When we only share the best versions of ourselves—that which will get us the most likes—are we really being authentic?
Mr. Antony Farag and Ms. Bailey Verdone’s Global Citizen class took on this digital culture of inauthenticity, which is exemplified by the juxtaposition of “finstas” and “rinstas,” in their new display between the Health Office and Varsity Gym.
“We’re at this great institution, but there are less-than-perfect things that we don’t talk about,” Verdone said.
Verdone and Farag hope to see this display used as a catalyst for a deeper understanding of students at WHS. “I’ve had students who are happy in class and then I’ve found out through guidance they are really struggling,” said Verdone. The two see this as a result of today’s students being all too capable of putting on a façade. This is evident in what students post to the world versus to a close community—their “rinstas,” or real Instagrams, versus their “finstas,” or fake Instagrams.
The right side of the display features a “rinsta,” or an Instagram for friends, families and classmates to follow. The screencap of the “rinsta” that the Global Citizen class created for the display, @rinsta908, is surrounded by trophies, articles detailing students’ academic accolades and textbooks. The profile boasts pictures that reflect this image of a well-rounded, successful WHS student.
On the left side is the “finsta,” an Instagram detailing the secret reality of a WHS student. In contrast to the “rinsta,” @finsta908 shares drunken photos and letters of college rejection to the user’s small, private community. Fittingly, this area is littered with Solo cups and cigarettes and a scrolling GroupMe conversation of students sharing and copying homework.
Another interactive feature is a QR code that leads to a survey regarding social media, with a focus on bullying and isolation.
This project plays into the class’ theme of introspection. Farag said he wants students to consider, “What shapes your thoughts and what you post?” In order for passersby to get to this same point of reflection, a mirror is angled up at the viewer and a banner overhead asks, “How authentic is WHS?”
This display grew out of projects completed in class after reading M.T. Anderson’s novel Feed, in which characters live in a futuristic society where citizens have an Instagram-like processing unit installed in their brains.
According to Farag and Verdone, the project was really powered by the students. “We separated into teams: props, technology and a team that worked on blowing up pictures,” explained Global Citizen student and senior Casey Popowski. “Then Mr. Farag and Ms. Verdone had to contact Mr. DeSarno and ask for permission to use the display case. It was all done really fast, within a week, but it was fun.”
Farag said, “So much has changed about the adolescent experience because of social media.”
According to him, understanding the minds of students, including their online interactions, is imperative to connecting with them.