BeReal. Your Friends for Real, is a relatively new app all about authenticity on social media. This app has rapidly grown in popularity among Gen Z and the Boston College community with an impressive ranking of #18 on the App Store in Social Networking. BeReal is a refreshing addition to my slew of social media apps that acts to counteract the often toxic, and overly manipulated posts, comments, and pictures that flood my feed on other social media. By clearly setting it’s purpose to encourage authenticity, BeReal challenges users to ditch their preconceived notions of what they should post and consume on social media.
The app sends users a single notification once a day, at a random time, during which users have two minutes to capture a photo of whatever they are doing at that time. Users can also post a photo later in the day if they miss this notification. However, users can only see what their friends have posted if they post in time. The photo must be taken in the app’s camera, which takes a photo using the front and back camera simultaneously. After “BeReal. time,” as my friends and I have started to call it, users can scroll through their feed and see what their friends have posted.
Posts can have captions, comments, and friends can “RealMoji” a post (react to a post with a picture of their face imitating an emoji), these are the main forms of user interaction. I find RealMojis to be a humorous loop of emulation: first emojis served to emulate facial expressions, and now users match their facial expressions to emulate emojis. The app makes a bold claim, that in some ways compels me to hold it to a higher standard than other apps that don’t advocate for authenticity quite as much. Various aspects of BeReal. bring up important questions when it comes to social media: What is reality? How do we present ourselves to the world? Are we living authentically?
I downloaded BeReal. this week; I was the last of my roommates. As the pull of FOMO won out over the feeling of superiority that accompanies nonconformity, I started using the BeReal.. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around what was so amazing about BeReal., and what made “BeReal. time” so exciting that my roommates had to scream every time they received the daily notification. Day one of using BeReal. was lackluster. I took my profile photo in-app, in the name of journalism and authenticity; my photo for that day was of my friend and I studying in the library. Day two was also taken in the library at around 10PM, but it was a Thursday so it was fun to see what my friends were doing at BC and at other schools. Day three I officially became a loyal servant to “BeReal. time” and felt a rush of endorphins when the notification appeared on my screen as my friends were celebrating a birthday.
My week went on like this, “BeReal. time” seemed to occur at the perfect moment, like during my fifteen minute break at work, or while I watched Elijah Wood interviews with my roommates. I found myself looking back at my BeReal. photos, which acted as a portal into cherishable moments that I likely would’ve forgotten without the app. The user interface includes a “My Friends” tab, where you can view the pictures of people you follow, and a “Discovery” tab where you can see posts from strangers. I’ve rarely used the latter. I can confidently say that I am a big fan of BeReal., but I don’t think that the app is immune to the corruption that eventually claims all social media.
Firstly, your BeReal. photo of the day can be retaken during the 2-minute window, allowing users to pose and curate the moment they’re experiencing, rather than just snap the photo and continue on with their day. Furthermore, the ability to post after “BeReal. time” allows users to choose a part of their day that they find more appealing to share. Comments and “RealMojis” lend themselves to users comparing how much interaction they receive on their posts. Despite these flaws, BeReal. doesn’t allow for the editing of posted photos, or the level of careful planning and curation that social media apps like Instagram encourage.
Social media apps are created for user interaction and profit and BeReal. is no exception. Strictly speaking, BeReal. is the antithesis of its claim because it interrupts the person from what they really would’ve been doing without the app. With that being said, BeReal. is more authentic than most social media, but it's not more authentic than abstaining from social media in general.
Regardless, it's a really fun app.