A demand for overt authenticity has gripped every social media platform as of late. From TikTok’s algorithm evidently favouring unmanicured content over its carefully-edited counterpart (15-second clips of your nostrils with the most inane shower thoughts in the text overlay will perform better on the video-sharing app than a well-shot vlog), to the photo dump (a hodgepodge of messily cropped, seemingly unfiltered images thrust together into Instagram carousels), every emerging social media trend has ventured into startlingly personal territory.
Taking the thirst for true transparency to a wholly new height is BeReal. Unlike Instagram or TikTok, the recently-launched app has no filters, video-sharing capabilities or fancy features on offer. Neither does it have an algorithm to guide the content you see. All BeReal allows you to do is a make a single post each day. The kicker? Every day, its alert goes off at a random, unpredictable time, and you only have two minutes to post something once it does.
If you fail—as I often did—you’ll be met with an alarming notification to let you know that you’re late. You’ll also not be allowed to see anyone else’s posts for the day, until you post something yourself. When you eventually do, your post will be prominently marked with a ‘Late’ tag.
Ostensibly, all this is to encourage users to keep to the app’s unspoken contract of posting whatever it is that they’re actually doing when the daily alert goes off, no matter how unflattering. For me, the narrow time limit and strict rules felt almost Draconian—somewhat similar to work deadlines, which as any writer will know, are nightmare-fuel.
My first few days on BeReal were fairly uneventful. I had barely any friends on the app at this stage, and was pretty much posting ugly (and completely unfiltered) photos of my emails into the void. BeReal’s nifty dual camera function necessitates that you use both the front and back lens on your phone at the same time, painting a complete portrait of both your boring surroundings and weary face for easy viewing.
Like any medium, one of the greatest joys of social media is the ability to, in some small way, curate
If it isn’t already hauntingly clear, a key takeaway I had from spending some time on BeReal is just how repetitive my life really is. I work a creative job, have a vibrant social life and enjoy the odd party. And yet, I somehow ended up with uncannily-similar permutations of the same image every day.
This inadvertently led to phase two of my BeReal adventures: deception. While the app’s randomness is designed to draw out authenticity, the discovery of my own monotony pushed me to save my BeReals for when I knew I would be doing something fun. It started off innocently enough—on day four, I waited five minutes past the deadline to catch a meal my partner was cooking rather than my laptop screen. But by the end of the week, I was stalling for hours just to capture something interesting.
This was clearly dodgy behaviour, but I didn’t feel as guilty as I should have, since several of the friends I had added on BeReal by this point were regularly publishing late posts too. It felt both conspiratorial and pointless at the same time, and it certainly wasn’t just us who felt the pressure to delay our BeReals. With TikTok already swirling with memes about missed BeReal alerts really just being an obvious cover for people looking to flex their best moments, the problem with the app became painfully clear.
Like any medium, one of the greatest joys of social media is the ability to, in some small way, curate. Even the most callous photo dump has an element of selectiveness to it, a sense of theme. There is thought behind what you choose to put out, and a varying degree of creativity goes into—well, creating the content you publish.
By taking that agency away, BeReal drains the very heart of what engaging with social media is all about. Without the ability to add value to what we post through skill, imagination or intention, what we are left with, dangerously, are the bare bones of reality. The only way to capture something good on the app every day is if you have access to nice things and places all the time. Otherwise, your BeReal memories are likely to look like a sad social experiment.
This might not have been a problem if BeReal existed on a plane of enlightenment higher than other social media apps—above the addictively positive feedback loop of receiving likes and comments on your posts, and the sinking emptiness of not being able to match up to your feed.
Here, there is no highlight reel. Neither is there scope for voluntary vulnerability. There is only an all-seeing, ubiquitous camera that can lay claim on a snapshot of your life at any time. I feared not that it would catch me at a bad time, but rather at a time that would expose to the world the truth: that just like everyone else, I am utterly dull.
There is only one conclusion here—I am simply not ready to be quite as real as this app demands. What does make me feel better though, is that clearly, no one else is either.