TikTok’s latest trend for 'day dumping' has more people sharing their everyday lives than ever before. Using TikTok’s carousel feature (which is currently not visible on desktop), day dumps showcase a set of images from a single day, where users have managed to find unexpected beauty in their own moments of being.
For those of us who grew up in the golden age of YouTube, enjoying creators who make thoughtful content out of their day-to-day lives isn’t all that different from the now dwindling genre vlogs. But it's more than that. As historian Freya Marshall Payne suggests, Instagram offers a new frontier for women’s life writing and autobiographical storytelling. Much the same can be said about TikTok, whose users digitally curate treasured memories and create their own narratives about their lives.
Bryanna, who goes by @notmymango online, is an avid day dumper. I’ve followed her for a year now and there’s something so charming about the way she captures life. On her Instagram she shares still lives of all things hygge, while her TikTok day dumps feature her frolicking in the sea and snow, fresh linen bedding, fruit and vegetables from the farmer's market, and many a self-portrait in her plant-filled bathroom. She tells me that during the COVID pandemic, "It was necessary to reframe those constants, the mundane moments, into something more pleasurable for my own sanity."
Bryanna also says that posting in this way helps her to create a time capsule online of years’ worth of actions now framed as accomplishments. "Now, two years into memorialising those moments in videos and photos, I can happily say that it brings me joy to look back and say, 'Hey, I accomplished something today!' I get down on myself for not being productive and this helps me remember that simply existing is productive enough."
Typical day dump activities might include baking, household chores like watering plants, browsing bookshops and visiting galleries and coffee shops, each one carefully documented through a series of filterless photos. At its core, the trend is about gratitude and romanticising life again. For users like me, it’s much more appealing to see people do things that I enjoy and can do, too.
I get down on myself for not being productive and this helps me remember that simply existing is productive enough.
That is, in large part, the lure of day dumping. In the UK, the cost of living crisis is having unprecedented effects on everyone, and as our incomes fail to match the increase in prices, those small but often overlooked daily pleasures are quickly becoming more meaningful than ever. As the financial accessibility of little indulgences like good coffee and nice skincare slowly diminishes, our understanding of what a 'treat' actually is has shifted radically.
It’s clear that we’re veering away from the culture of luxury and excess that has dominated social media in recent years (see the recent condemnation of influencer Lydia Millen for an 'out of touch' video in which she claimed that she was going to stay at London's Savoy Hotel as her heating had broken). Much like the practice of 'slow living' I wrote about last year, day dumping is partly about finding happiness in life as it already is. So in pursuit of my own everyday magic, I started a week of day dumping myself.
Admittedly, not knowing what to take photos of felt like I’d fallen at the first hurdle. Most of my work is remote and taking photos is a habit that I’ve slowly fallen out of over the past few years. Bryanna tells me that she tries to go on walks every day, sharing what she wears, where she goes and what she sees. "The other day I got dressed and went tide-pooling. I loved capturing that through images and sharing it with those who maybe don’t have access to the nature that I do," she tells me. "But I also love to share the moments at home that are less exciting. Making a cup of tea, washing my face and so on."
In my week of day dumping, I had to travel from my home in the New Forest to the medieval cities of Durham and Winchester for work. Winchester is only a short drive whereas Durham is about 330 miles away. This proved to be an opportunity. As someone who, like Bryanna, all too often prioritises productivity over peace, there’s something really calming about wandering cobblestoned streets and walking along the river with no goal other than taking nice photos and appreciating my surroundings. But as is often the case with the temperamental British weather, few photos turned out as well as I’d hoped.
This is one of the biggest caveats of day dumping. Over the course of the week, I realised that day dumping – while more focused on celebrating the mundane parts of our daily spending than on showing off luxury purchases that most can’t afford – is not yet an outright rejection of consumerism. Even as a casual photo taker and reel maker, I felt a degree of pressure to curate the perfect selection of images, especially when the weather wasn’t willing to comply.
Without full autonomy over our living spaces and environments, it’s hard to make even small snippets appear as cinematic or dreamy as we may want. Content creator Lucy Moon recently shared a video talking about how inaccurate it is for those of us in our early 20s to compare our lifestyles to those of full-time influencers, and she’s not wrong. In my many years as a perpetual renter, I would always wonder why my unkempt student houses never seemed as nice as those I followed on Instagram for inspiration.
But unlike the endless supply of perfectly curated interior design accounts, day dumps prioritise authenticity above all else. It’s not about manufacturing content for content's sake but about searching for the beauty in daily life. The vast majority of videos I’ve liked haven’t come from big influencers that I already followed but have actually been shared by smaller accounts – creators who, while often perusing in shops, don’t end up buying anything. It’s here that day dumping helps to preserve a childlike sense of wonder. A lot of the joy in browsing book and charity shops isn’t to do with buying things; it's the thrill of the treasure hunting and finding inspiration instead.
My weeklong experience with day dumping was ultimately a mixed bag. As to be expected, a lengthy journey north and back hardly made for a thrilling photo set, especially in the dark of winter. While stunning in person, the single, blurry image I took of a scarlet sunrise from the M3 didn’t make for great content. But consciously trying to make art out of a mundane National Express trip made it more pleasant and memorable than it otherwise might have been.
Between the time spent travelling and working, I realised by the end of the week that I hadn't taken enough photos for a single day's post. My pictures were mostly relegated to my story, a singular TikTok, and shared intermittently with family and friends. It felt like the closest I’d come to writing anything like a diary entry in months.
When life feels repetitively mundane, there’s a meditative quality to capturing an image and reminding yourself that every day can be different if you want it to be. Much like using a disposable camera or taking photos on film, day dumping is about capturing the moment, not the image. As Freya says: "Social media, therefore, in all its democracy, feels like a logical conclusion of life writing, whereby everyone can present as they want to be seen." Day dumping certainly allowed me to present the most beautiful – if seemingly insignificant – moments of my life.