lthough this isn’t a new trend, it’s a persisting one. If you’re an active Instagram user, you’ve probably seen two different camps on the platform: the aesthetic, and the chaos. In this week’s trend breakdown, I’m diving into the chaos. 

Instagram started as a static photo-sharing app, with a few blown-out filters for users to add on top of their images. That version of Instagram is obviously gone, considering the fact that Adam Mosseri (the reigning CEO of Instagram) stated that Instagram is “no longer a square photo-sharing app.” In an attempt to rival the video success of TikTok, Instagram is becoming less of a social media network and more of an e-commerce vehicle for brands and consumers. 

Image sourced from TechCrunch.

A transition like that brings about all kinds of changes. First, the algorithm that users have come to know and love is changing to accommodate more shopping-oriented consumers. Instead of prioritizing images, the new Instagram promotes video content, IGTV and other, newer features. Some other changes include: more payout for content creators on the platform, improved analytics for businesses, more disclosure options for influencer marketing, and a more straightforward process to purchase items directly from users, creators and business accounts.

While the change towards e-commerce may be exciting for many, the photo users adapted their content to fit into Instagram’s new vision. Some creators use their Instagram as a platform to regularly tease projects, promote their values and grow their audience using aesthetically appealing, quality images of themselves. Others decide to throw caution to the wind and ghost the platform for months, only to appear with a myriad of images lovingly called a “photo dump.”

What is a photo dump?

Photo dumps are a collection of images that show someone’s life. Photo dumps can be any images that were taken (or saved) by a person over the course of an undetermined period of time. Photo dumps are mostly unedited, unfiltered looks at someone’s life, but can contain images that are professionally taken or touched up. There really are no rules for a photo dump––which is part of what makes them so fun. 

Gen Z has largely shattered traditional expectations of influencers, and photo dumps are one of the results that are easy to point out. For a while, creators, influencers and celebrities were expected to maintain a perfect, and often unattainable, image of themselves across social media. However, somewhere along the line, the desire for that image broke. Now, younger generations are empowering themselves with normality––embracing flaws, differences, and things that make us all unique. 

Why are photo dumps popular?

Photo dumps are an authentic look at the intimate lives of everyone around us; you might not understand all of the images, but that’s kind of the point. Someone is sharing their life with you through a social media platform, and just like the classic Drew Carey game show series, “everything is made up and the points don’t matter.”

Photo dumps aren’t unique to casual users, either. Influencers like Emma Chamberlain regularly post photo dumps, giving fans a look into her life as if it was a Snapchat sent to a personal friend. Everyone from musicians, celebrities and models have taken turns at curating photo dumps. Take Bella Hadid for example––this photo dump is pretty curated, but still manages to give the same energy as a bunch of images thrown together for the heck of it. 

There is some argument about the origins of photo dumps. Some believe that the photo dumps are the result of the global pandemic, forcing us to see the world around us in a more beautiful, engaging light. Others argue that we were headed towards photo dumps the entire time, with developments on social media platforms leaving users feeling disconnected with themselves and their true interests. Some people even used photo dumps to “fight the system,” in an attempt to throw off the perfectionism seen on other aesthetic accounts. 

What does it mean?

No matter how the trend got started, it doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon. Besides giving users multiple ways to show their lives to their fans, it creates opportunities for clever brand partnerships or creative storylines for characters. For brands and marketers looking to hop on the photo dump trend, think about how your brand is portrayed in public. If you want to partner with a creator in a photo dump, it’s important to consider how to authentically fit your brand into that person’s life through images. This will also encourage more brands to seek out partnerships with creators that have the same aesthetic and values––so that the connection between brand and influencer is more seamless. 

Social media may be changing, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t built for the everyday user anymore. It just means that we have to figure out how to use it again.

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