‘photo dumps’, self-cannibalisation, and simulacra

3 min readMar 30, 2023

if you have spent any time on instagram in the past whenever, you have probably stumbled upon the idea of a ‘photo dump’. you have probably posted one yourself. i have also posted a few! the whole aim of instagram, some would argue, is to simply dump photos! as a self-dubbed ‘instagram sociologist’ (a saddening title to bestow upon oneself, but i hold this mantle with a remorseful pride), this is like saying that the point of a phone is to make calls. that’s technically true, yes, but not really, correct?

and sure, i could make the point that everything on instagram is an appeal to seem as ‘authentic’ as possible- a highly nebulous term in the age of post-post irony. i think we can do better than that! saying for the billionth time that instagram and social media is a manicured hyper-capitalistic expression of an expression of joy is boring, a little bit untrue, and makes me sound like an annoying technophobe. i am actually chronically online, and find it unwise to bite the hand that feeds me.

the timescale in which we post them is the first interesting thing. it is at the end of a month! everything in the category of cataloguing things you’ve done always seems to be within a month. and the date in which you post it inches ever earlier- case in point, i started writing this on the 27th of march! and i only write if i am annoyed at the fact that i am annoyed. (i plan to post one on the 21st of a month soon and see the reactions).

the medium (wink wink) it is posted on is also interesting. of course, back in ye olde days, it was simply done as a normal post. a year to the day since i first posted one of these dumps. 10 till another, perhaps. now, however, there has been a pivot to posting it on a story. i think there’s something to say about the ephemerality of it, and that perhaps being a further appeal to being authentic! the fact that it is simply a one-and-done is a further appeal to this idea of being authentic.

through all of that heavy-handed analysis of what photodumping actually means, what irks me the most about photo dumps is that it is the ultimate culmination of ‘the society of the spectacle’- it represents nothing but an aesthetic. it is commodity fetishism to the extreme- as there is… no commodity to fetishise!! it is the ultimate simulacrum for the modern age. it is a representation of trying to represent authenticity- which, in itself, is a representation! it is a drawing of the shadows shown in plato’s cave, photographed and backed with a tasteful snippet of some indie-pop, shown to the masses to behold as the real thing!

as i have said before, i try not to leave my articles without something to take from it. this is genuinely such a weird phenomenon to me. i don’t think that, however, there is a problem with it, and other things similar to it (e.g. bereal). i have not gone too far down the luddite rabbithole. people are ultimately, free to do whatever they want! i am here to make comments that straddle the line between snide and pointed. live in the panopticon of your dreams, i guess? but again, that isn’t the happy ending to this piece foretold. i am a failed proselytiser, trying to warn society of ills i gladly give into, i assume?

as such, i am putting this in a little category of its own i am calling: observations that make too much sense for me to give advice on. take what you will from this! maybe it is, ‘not that deep’ and i have wasted some amount of my time writing from this. maybe my opinion is wrong! i’ll get around to writing an addendum to this as my brain is rattled, and my optimism/cynicism dichotomy is starting to lose its balance…