BY SHIRA OELSNER
Maybe you’re dining at your favorite local restaurant with friends. Maybe you’re hustling to meet a tight work deadline. Or maybe you just woke up from your afternoon nap and are aimlessly scrolling through TikTok. Wherever you may be and whatever you may be doing, you frantically tap the notification at the top of your screen in pursuit of sharing your current activity with friends––it’s time to BeReal. You have two minutes left to capture a BeReal and see what your friends are up to.
BeReal, a rapidly growing photo-sharing app, has reached the top spot in the U.S. on Apple’s App Store, according to The Los Angeles Times, and still has the number one spot as of August 20. BeReal releases a notification every day at a different time, prompting all users to simultaneously capture and share a photo within a two-minute time frame. After tapping the notification, users take two unedited images—one front-camera image and one back-camera image—and share it with their friends in order to “be real.” If users post late, their images are marked “late,” and they risk being labeled “not real” by fellow users.
The app was founded in 2020 by French entrepreneur Alexis Barreyat to stop fake social media worlds. “We want an alternative to addictive social networks fueling social comparison and portraying life with the goal of amassing influence,” BeReal representatives wrote in a fact sheet sent via email. “We are built for everyone that wants to connect with friends and family in an authentic, spontaneous and qualitative way. Our growth began amongst college students, and is now multi-generational.” Today, the app is most popular in France, where it is based, and the United States, according to TechCrunch.
For a generation accustomed to curating lives on social media platforms with an endless stream of edited and filtered photos, BeReal gives younger social media users a breath of fresh air from picture-perfect images and restores a sense of truthfulness into online life. “By not focusing on followers, likes and filters, BeReal connects users with spontaneity and authenticity,” BeReal representatives wrote.
But some users are still finding ways to present an unauthentic social media presence. Since users do not necessarily have to post their BeReal on time, it enables them to actually wait until they are doing something “interesting” to take their BeReal. This gives rise to the question––is BeReal, an app based on promoting authenticity, truly authentic?
According to Julia Rosenstein, a rising senior from New Jersey, BeReal is as authentic as each user wants to make it.
“While most of my friends on the app do not post in the two-minute window of when the notification goes off, it can be authentic for people who post on time.” Jake Bernstein, a rising senior from Connecticut said. “It’s up to BeReal users to determine how authentic they’re willing to be, and BeReal won’t hide any inauthenticity,” Bernstein said. “For example, it shows how many retakes people take and shows when people post late.”
As more users adjust to how BeReal operates, people are less inclined to post exactly when the notification is pushed out.
When Meital Saban, a rising junior from New Jersey, first started using the app, she thought it was authentic. Now, however, more people take photos outside of the “BeReal” time, or when they look good, Saban said.
According to Rosenstein, BeReal is designed to be less addictive than other social media apps. “The app doesn’t promote hours of scrolling which is one reason for its rise in popularity. I think that apps that demand hours of dedication, like Instagram, are dying,” she said.
Current high schoolers, many of whom have been using social media since their elementary school ages, are beginning to become increasingly aware of the toxic culture of likes and filters that are omnipresent on apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. BeReal introduces an alternative platform for users to share their lives without the presence of likes, filters, followers, and fame.
According to BeReal representatives, the app “won’t make you famous.” Since BeReal doesn’t allow for follower count and is solely for the purpose of adding friends and family, it prevents the rise of fame and influencer culture that exists on other social media apps.
However, after a few months of actively using BeReal, many users have begun revolving their daily activities around the app and growing hyper aware of what they’re doing. So, if you’re dining at your favorite local restaurant with friends, or hustling to meet that deadline, or laying in bed doing nothing, avoid saying “I wish the BeReal went off right now,” or “This would be such a good BeReal.” Saban noted the importance of being present. “Even though the purpose of BeReal is to post at a given time, I think that the app makes people forget the importance of living in the moment,” she said. “Perhaps it’s good that many don’t post on time because they are simply living.”
Ultimately, the question remains: to BeReal or not to BeReal?