Is it time to ditch the photo dump?

A photo dump of a week in the life could consist of stacks of books, cups of coffee, and a sunset over the local supermarket. A photo dump of vacation could consist of tropical drinks, sandy toes, and no makeup selfies under the palm trees.

From hours spent swiping between photos trying to decide which picture portrays the best angle to countless filters and cropping techniques, some people are willing to go to extremes to get the perfect Instagram post.

Social media can be an outlet for students to express themselves and share things they like; however, this can come at a cost. Teenagers can develop negative self-image due to “perfect” content online, according to a Columbia Public Health study from June. While posts on apps such as Instagram are often viewed as inauthentic due to filters and editing, the ongoing phenomenon of “casual” Instagram in which users post unconventional photos of themselves or their surroundings has propelled a recent shift toward authenticity.

Over the past couple years, some students have been participating in more seemingly relaxed posting, often in the form of casual photo dumps. Photo dumps use the carousel feature on Instagram, allowing an account to post more than one picture at once. These photos are commonly unrelated and loosely depict the user’s everyday life.

A photo dump of a week in the life could consist of stacks of books, cups of coffee, and a sunset over the local supermarket. A photo dump of vacation could consist of tropical drinks, sandy toes, and no makeup selfies under the palm trees.

First-year computer science major Sean Carstens said he noticed casual, less curated posts overwhelming his Instagram feed, specifically this summer.

“I feel like before, a lot of posts were orchestrated,” Carstens, 18, said. “You would do whole photo shoots. Now, people just post random pictures of them with their friends or of things they do.”

While the randomness of casual Instagram may have been frowned upon by those who share more elaborate posts on their accounts, first-year student Olivia Redmond acknowledged how the overall mindset on social media platforms may be shifting.

“People are becoming aware of how toxic social media can be and how fake it is,” Redmond, the social work major, said. “People are leaving their pictures with no editing or photoshop. It’s more simple and more natural.”

Carstens said people are posting content they may not have posted before because they don’t want the pressure. Redmond agrees and partially credits this to Instagram’s feature that allows a user to hide the number of likes on their post which sateded in April. 

“They know other people are judging them off of how many likes they got,” Redmond, 18, said. “People are more willing to post because they are not worried — they just want to be creative.”

Although content may appear more laid-back, it raises the question as to whether casual Instagram is really casual. Redmond recognized that although it may be in a more relaxed format, users are still only posting the “good” parts of their life. 

“From what I’ve seen, I feel like people pick a pretty sunset or a good plate of food,” Redmond said. “They pick a highlight reel.”

Posting to an Instagram account with a large follower count is different than sharing content with just close friends which may be the cause of more curated content. Loyola digital arts and digital humanities professor Alan Perry analyzed how a larger audience could impair genuineness. 

“Representing a more authentic self to a wider audience…there is always the question of performance baked into that,” Perry said. “We might perform what other people expect us to.”

First-year environmental policy major Jayne Bishop believes that people commonly put up fronts on social media, hiding the parts of their lives that are not as glamorous. Additionally, Carstens emphasized there is not undeniable authenticity and spontaneity in photo-dump posts — they often still craft a specific façade. 

“I think people are still trying to put out a certain version of themselves,” Carstens said. “They are posting things that are casual but are secretly exactly what they want to post.”

Trying to cover up flaws is probable when there is a large audience watching. This raises the question as to whether or not true authenticity would even be possible on Instagram.

“When we are the least preformative, and inversely the most authentic/casual, it is when there is no audience around us,” Perry wrote in a follow-up email to the Phoenix. “It’s reasonable to conclude that casual posting is, if not impossible, very difficult to truly achieve.”

While the debate on whether a person’s content can ever be truly authentic could go on indefinitely, there could be potential for positive growth if the community strives for openness. 

“I think it is important to think about how we might create a space that we feel comfortable sharing,” Perry said. 

Although Instagram is steering away from formal posting, content is still being curated. Real authenticity is still hard to find, which raises the question: is it time to ditch the photo dump?

Featured image drawn by Hanna Houser | The Phoenix.

Lily Niziolek

Lily Niziolek