Don’t enable a friend’s online bullying
A friend of mine has a secret finsta (a fake Instagram account), and I want to call her out. She uses her finsta whenever she wants to be a bitch without anyone knowing it’s her. This usually happens when someone she’s jealous of posts good news. She showed me her finsta once when she was drunk. It has a pic of a dog she used to walk and the dog’s name. I’m sure she forgot that she told me. I’m sick of seeing her be such a bully to people, including our friends. They delete the comments, of course, but the damage is done. The weirdest thing, and the reason I’m writing to you, is because my friend is training to become a therapist. What should I do?
Stop being a bully’s sidekick. Your friend told you about her finsta, and you’ve seen her use it to harm others. Her behavior bothers your conscience, but you’ve stopped short of taking action. Bullies sense our fear of being their next target and use it to their advantage. Be courageous. Report your friend’s finsta to Instagram and get it taken down. She’s violating the terms of the platform, she violating the terms of friendship and she’s harming others and herself. Three strikes. She’s out of integrity.
Originally, finstas were secondary Instagram accounts that a user set to private mode, only allowing access to close friends. Finsta content is usually less curated than the user’s public account. So teenagers created finstas to keep parents and caregivers out of the loop of real life. Influencers created finstas to relieve the pressure of always having to appear perfect online. And some people created finstas to bully others.
For clarity, let’s define bullying as repeated aggressive behavior intended to deliver psychological or physical harm. Verbal bullying includes name-calling, taunts, threats and the silent treatment. Physical bullying includes hitting, stealing, slapping or flipping people off. Social bullying, your friend’s weapon of choice, involves gossiping, purposely excluding, trash-talking or embarrassing someone in front of others.
A bully tends to hold an inflated self-image and has an endless need for admiration. But beneath that appearance of confidence is a fragile self-esteem that cannot handle the slightest criticism without instigating counter-attack. When a bully is not confronted or reported, bystanders become complicit in the cruelty and abuse. Don’t let that happen to you.
Talk to your friend about her fake account and your concern for how she is treating others. Be sure to have another friend present, someone you trust and who is not easily intimidated. Your friend is likely to deny the fake account. Gently remind her that she told you about it. Ask her how she would handle a counseling session with a client who had a fake Instagram account used solely to leave unkind comments on other people’s joyful posts. Be prepared for the end of your friendship with her. Tell yourself that it’s best. She’s split between a persona of caring and a narcissistic attitude that convinces her she is justified in hurting others. You don’t need that in your life.