It's the mid-2000s. Armed with only a digital camera, I've just completed a photo shoot with my high school BFF, dolled up in Supré and a liberal swipe of Lip Smacker. There are probably a hundred photos on the SD card we can choose from — each with an ever so slightly different angle or pose change. I upload every single photo onto my Facebook profile with carefree abandon. The album is called "waiters gonna wait" in honour of a viral Tumblr reference that won't make sense in a decade's time... cue the likes and comments.
The mid-'00s were a simpler time on social media. Facebook album dumps had millennials and zillennials in a chokehold, where after every night out, we'd trawl through a sea of snaps on a party photographer's page to tag ourselves. We'd share the minutiae of our summer break in an album named in honour of the year, the location of a holiday, or an in-joke that only our closest friends would understand. Perhaps more thrilling yet was when the photo album of a crush or vague acquaintance had been updated, all for us to stalk through, one-by-one. Quantity was prioritised over quality, and the more photos that went up, the better.
In the years since, an overwhelming number of users have left the juggernaut social media platform on ethical grounds or to avoid looking "cheugy". Facebook hasn't been entirely a wasteland though, largely thanks to Marketplace, but album dumps still reign supreme for newlyweds sharing pics of their special day or Minion mums posting their loved ones.
The younger generation instead picked Instagram as their weapon of choice for posting photos, an app that retrained us to prioritise sharing only the most polished version of our lives. With each experience shared one at a time instead of as a bundle, posting pictures became a game of curation rather than a means of sharing memories.
But this style of user-generated content has proved unsustainable over the decade-plus that Instagram has been in our lives. Society began to decry the unrealistic representations online for harming self-esteem, while the app even eased up on its rigidity with a 2017 update that allowed people to post up to 10 photos per post, leading to carousels ("Instagram dumps") that nodded to its Facebook album predecessor. Now that Instagram has introduced cross-platform sharing, more people are easing back into the idea of posting to Facebook.
On Twitter, nostalgic posters ruminate on the good ol' days of feeling like a small fish in a big pond, where the only people seeing your photos on Facebook were the ones who mattered. "When people say they've done a 'photo dump' of the month and then there are nine photos. Do you not remember when a night out had a Facebook album with 70 pictures in it?" questioned one user in December. "When is 2007 Facebook Photo Album core coming back? Like a lifestyle where you upload 170 photos into an album after every night you go out and no one ever looks good and that's the point," another reflected in January.
So, it should come as no surprise that returning to Facebook photo album posting appeared in more than a couple 2023 ins and outs lists. Touted as an up-and-coming social media habit we should all be getting on board with, this reemergence might have you wondering "what changed?". Well, the uptake is even seeing Gen Z — who often turn their noses up at millennial online behaviours and may have skipped the first wave of Facebook altogether — now claiming their stake with Facebook albums filled with photos in the double digits.
"I think people care a lot less these days about likes, especially on Facebook," says Claudia, a 25-year-old who has returned to Facebook to post albums. "Back in the day, it was a big deal to get a lot of likes on an album or on your profile picture, now I feel like Facebook just isn’t used as much as it was or as much as Instagram, so people aren’t as active posting and using it."
Claudia told Refinery29 Australia that she posts albums on Facebook because she likes having all her favourite memories in one place, easy to look back on, to find and to add to throughout the year without the endless scrolling of Instagram grids. Returning to Facebook has also given her a renewed perspective on who we all originally started posting our photos for in the first place — our nearest and dearest.
"I have a lot of family who isn’t on Instagram and so I post a lot of the same photos to Facebook as they like seeing them... [and] will often interact with my posts by commenting," she shares about her snaps, which include food adventures, date nights and social catchups which she refers to as "the highlights" still.
While Claudia still batches her albums chronologically — the first few months out of lockdown, summer holidays or yearly overviews — she's noticed a change in pattern for her friends who have also slowly ventured back on the platform. "Perhaps people are doing fewer albums of a specific event and more of the 'photo dump' trend where a bunch of different photos are posted that are unrelated," she muses.
It makes sense. The ongoing Y2K revival means that we're naturally turning towards the next era of "newstalgia". People have started to once again capture their worlds on digital cameras or bring flip phones to the club, and hey, they need a place to house all that content that won't expire after 24 hours. We crave being perceived, and now want to do so authentically and in bulk. This return to oversharing may be the new norm after all, with the release of the Instagram notes feature in December drawing back on the height of Facebook statuses, while the #photodump trend on TikTok replicated the album experience in video form.
"When posting to Facebook, I am more free with what I put up because the album can have an endless number of pictures."
27-year-old Rose is in the same boat, telling Refinery29 Australia that she finds herself spending less time looking for that "perfect" shot like she does for Instagram, opting instead for a wider array of family holidays, overseas trips, friends and nature images like a classic sunset pic instead. "When posting to Facebook I am freer with what I put up because the album can have an endless number of pictures," she says.
"I usually post most of my pictures on Instagram, however, I have recently started to share those photos and also create Facebook albums so that family members, particularly my grandma, who aren’t connected with me on Instagram, can see the images," she continues, pointing to the reason we all started using social media in the first place. "I have been living away from home in the Northern Territory for the past four years, so I think it’s important to my family that they feel connected to me through the pictures I post."
We may no longer have the naivety to post free from inhibitions and superficiality like we did when we were younger, and will likely still be selective with what goes up on Zuckerberg's ever-growing metaverse. However, the Facebook Album 2.0 trend offers a time capsule for our special moments in one central location and lets friends and family be voyeurs into our world without the pressure of losing followers.
So, while your cover photo and DP might not have been touched in god knows how long, don't be afraid to spontaneously dump your camera roll favourites on Facebook again. It might just remind you why we all started posting on social media in the first place.