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What The Recent Instagram Trend of ‘Camera Roll Dumps’ Tells Us About Our Relationship With Social Media

I think we can all admit that over the past year’s lockdowns, we have found ourselves spending an unprecedented amount of time on social media. I personally went from someone with a relatively low screen time, to hitting daily averages of around 4 hours, something I cringe to admit. However, one thing that I have noticed crop-up a lot recently is the Instagram trend of ‘camera roll dumps’, a trend that [on my feed] is predominantly occupied by the influencer. If you have managed to avoid this craze so far, camera roll dumps are a collection of usually around 4-8 photos, supposedly from people’s camera rolls that week. Ranging from pictures of people’s pets, selfies, cups of coffee, or the lighting in someone’s living room, what do these ‘camera roll dumps’ tell us about our relationship with social media?

Instagram has long been discussed as a ‘highlight reel’, demonstrating only the best and brightest bits of our lives. As lockdowns have continued to rollover then, it is not surprising that the rate of posts significantly decreased. In the initial stages of lockdown one, this was combatted by ‘throwback’ photos and pictures from holidays that people [understandably] were yearning for again. Now, the desire for response and validation that social media offers has manifested in the sharing of a concoction of photos from people’s cameras. What ‘camera roll dumps’ show us then is an innate desire to keep posting, to keep getting likes and being liked, maintaining the appearance of a seamlessly happy life. 

Although there is something charming about photos of coffee next to sunset lit walls, what concerns me is the motivation behind these posts; that in times of boredom, we are still seeking for ways to make our lives look interesting or exciting online. I am by no means condoning these photos, but what I am warning against is how Instagram culture is again managing to fuel a fraudulent reality, pushing to the forefront the extent that people yearn for the approval and attention of their followers. Furthermore, the similar and mutual aesthetics of the images in these ‘camera roll dumps’, often featuring flowers and charming, romantic lighting, also infers that these shots are by no means uncalculated. In truth, I would argue that they are photos intentionally taken for the gram, masqueraded under a label or hashtag that infers spontaneity. Just as the throwback trend demonstrated, the desire to merely have something to post is clear.

Thus, while we can all take pleasure in these pretty but rather empty photos, I urge you next time you see one, or if you think of posting one yourself, to consider what the intention is behind this content. Are you trying to create an untruthful aesthetic, or do you genuinely really want to share those photos? If the latter, go ahead! But I think when trying to break from the toxic spiral of social media, understanding intention is key, and if the intention is attention, please, put your phone down and know that your worth far exceeds any number of Instagram likes.


This article was written on April 5th.


Kelly is a postgraduate student on the Early Modern English Literature: Text and Transmission MA at KCL. She graduated from Newcastle University in 2020 with a degree in English Literature and Philosophy. Alongside reading and the theatre, Kelly is passionate about the environment, feminism, yoga, and good vegan food.
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