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We are all voyeurs: filtering the ‘dump’ in dump accounts

Angie (not her real name) was someone who claimed fondness from every person she met. I was one of them. I met her back in college outside a bar in España boulevard when she asked to borrow my lighter, which eventually struck a decent conversation between the two of us. She was a sophomore from a different university, we had no mutual friends, and she was two years younger than me wherein I would describe her then as a “bagets.” 

Before the cigarettes we held ran out, we decided to exchange Instagram handles and on that night, we both gained a new follower. Maybe it was the alcohol that made us too trusting, or maybe it was a great conversation. After all, we were merely pretentious, idealistic middle class college students who thought we knew the world too much because we read the same books on capitalism. 

Days later, on a random Tuesday night, I saw in my Instagram a random account follow me. It had a username likened to a Disney princess and an In the Mood for Love screengrab as a profile picture. The private account’s bio states, “Angie’s dump; snitches get stitches.” 

And here is someone whom I have met only once and never again as of this writing, allowing me a deeper access to her personal life. With complete fascination, I followed the account, and to this day, without striking another conversation with her, I got to know more about Angie than I should have meant to. Throughout, I learned how her ex-boyfriend betrayed her; how she was regularly beaten by her grandmother as a child; how she berated her deadbeat father and how much Angie loved her mother who stood her ground as a single parent. It was, in popular culture terms, known as “trauma dumping,” and that dump account has become her diary. If Angie was seeing a therapist (and I hope she does), then the shrink and I would most likely know the same thing about her. Maybe the difference between a shrink and I is that the former gets paid to absorb these information about Angie. 

But I have no shade over Angie. In fact, I quite enjoyed how she displayed such a sense of humor amid the miserable events in her life. I would have done that too, knowing that I saw a bit of myself in her when I was her age. I also had my own rant account which began in the pandemic—even before the short-lived “Circle” setting on Twitter—and I understood how liberating it is to have that kind of outlet. After all, that’s what social media is made for: an outlet. It has been and will continue to become a taxidermy of old wounds and short-lived joys in our lives. 

On a deeper reflection, this phenomenon that Angie and I share is not an isolated case. When my boyfriend and I were fairly new in the relationship, he posted a photo of us in his Instagram story under “Close Friends.” I was surprised to see the list of people who liked it, which was an eyeball of more than ten people. While I felt joy following the approval of his “close friends,” I asked him how many people were on his list. His estimate came to about 113 people. A college friend also has a dump account with more than 100 followers, and a close friend who has a “rant account” (nevertheless a dump account) on X (formerly Twitter) has about 50 people who have access to her thoughts, which was regularly logged. 

Likewise, the people we allow in our dump accounts have become subscribers of our personal lives. I have become a subscriber of Angie’s and my friends’ life and it has become a part of my social media consumption. In some ways, we are nothing but voyeurs in the lives of others through their dump accounts. After all, this is a generation of media consumers who spent hours watching Pinoy Big Brother, Face 2 Face, Raffy Tulfo in Action, and others alike. Most of us even spent hours marathoning Gossip Girl and Bridgerton, which might be known to this day as the most voyeuristic fictional series in popular culture, which was foregrounded by earlier, classical literature namely Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Orwell’s 1984. We were conditioned through culture to find gratification in becoming a voyeur in other people’s lives. We subscribe to this and find this as part of entertainment, part of media consumption in these times. 

Being able to write about Angie just shows how much information I have about her that I got to sit down and write about it—in a sense that I am admittedly “selling someone out” as Joan Didion put it. Had Angie restricted me access to her life through the means of her dump account, I would have only known her based on that one and only conversation we had that night I met her. 

While I have no problems with the existence of dump accounts, this led me to wonder: are we being too trusting of the people we allow to be voyeurs of our lives, or am I just promoting censorship in our respective lives? 

Both questions are answered affirmatively, and hear me out: this is, after all, an emphasis on privacy, and I intend to be as didactic as I could. The architecture of the digital sphere is modeled out of the panopticon, and surveillance to such movements involves such a nuanced play on power. 

English philosopher Francis Bacon could not have phrased it better when he said, “Knowledge is power.” Although he referred to scientific knowledge, other philosophers such as Michel Foucault have also explicated the connections of knowledge and power, and how both are interchangeable links that co-exists. Postmodern thinkers dissolved scientific knowledge as the center of knowledge, and that any information is already considered on its own as knowledge. 

In that sense, allowing people access to our dump accounts means allowing them knowledge, information over our lives. It can be simply put that these followers, these voyeurs have the power of information over us—the power over our lives. 

The problem here is we have forgotten how to be selective of people who have access to our personal lives. This led me to asking several people what was their category in adding followers to their “Close Friends” list on Instagram, and they all had the same answer. According to these sources, the people in the list do not necessarily have to be close friends. They were added there because they seem to not be “judgemental” of their lives. 

This is a popular reasoning for a lot of people who have dumps, and I was not spared from this mishap. When I first discovered the “Close Friends” setting back in 2019, I think I must have added more than 50 people there whom I was not necessarily close with but seem to appear less critical about my transparent display of my “authentic” self. 

Social media, after all, is still a culture maladied by overcuration and these dump accounts exist not only because it serves as an outlet for a less censored content, but more so because they are outliers to curation. Just imagine how liberating it must feel to post unfiltered and unedited photos, unpopular thoughts and opinions, and daily rants about personal adversities. 

That being said, it must be time to reevaluate the people who have access to our dump accounts. This is a personal reminder as well as I no longer want to empower too many people with too much information about my life. After all, we are not fully certain about other people’s intentions about us. 

With or without the intention of malice, everything we post online may be used against us. History on the use of information—the direct proliferation of power—have reminded us before and will remind us again that it is always better to be safe than sorry. This notion of distrust is warranted.