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‘To BeReal, or not to be?’: Some thoughts on the craze of BeReal

Is BeReal really about being real or being fake?


We’ve all been there. That BeReal notification pops up. You’re lying in bed, looking pretty crusty from the night before or simply just waiting for later that day when you know you have a more exciting plan to document. The question is, is this just a harmless and thoughtless practice or does it feed into the perpetual cycle of artificial lifestyles promoted by social media platforms? In exploring the app’s pros and cons of the app that I hope to find an answer to this enquiry.

As a recent convert to the BeReal app, seeing how my friends and I actually use it got me thinking. So here we go. Here lies my internally monologued battle which navigates my newfound yet deeply rooted love-hate relationship with BeReal. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the downside of things, as is always my philosophy, bad news first.

FOMO

For someone who is a type A, categorical overthinker BeReal feeds into my worst insecurities, the dreaded FOMO. It always comes when you’re feeling your worst and when you post your BeReal you’re granted access to seeing your friends meeting up without you or people just generally having a better time than you at that moment, thus, the downward spiral begins.

Unhealthy checking up on exes – don’t let them live rent free…

Simultaneously, BeReal is the best, most toxic and most subtle method in which a person can cling onto that one unhealthy connection with that particular person, the person who just popped into your head. No one’s safe from it. The ability to see what they’re doing daily keeps them engrained in your mind and doesn’t let you move on. The constant reminder that the world keeps turning after you end isn’t one you need but is one that BeReal guarantees.

Purpose Vs Function

While BeReal credits its purpose as “A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life” the reality of how it functions among users should read more like this, “A reformed mode of social media to discover the most exciting moments in your friends’ daily lives, when, and if, they decide to post”. Sometimes, we may get lucky, and that notification shows up at the right moment. The coincidence of a friend sky diving and posting on time shall never be lived down, but for the majority of the time, the ‘right moment’ for posting is saved until later, defying the time-sensitive notification and ignoring the whole reason for the app in the first place. Thus, the use of the app negates the good and true intentions behind making it.

Subjective negatives that can work as positives

While BeReal credits its purpose as “A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life” the reality of how it functions among users should read more like this, “A reformed mode of social media to discover the most exciting moments in your friends’ daily lives, when, and if, they decide to post”. Sometimes, we may get lucky, and that notification shows up at the right moment. The coincidence of a friend sky diving and posting on time shall never be lived down, but for the majority of the time, the ‘right moment’ for posting is saved until later, defying the time-sensitive notification and ignoring the whole reason for the app in the first place. Thus, the use of the app negates the good and true intentions behind making it.

Subjective negatives that can work as positives

Now, on this I am undecided. On the one hand, surely this is promoting a sense of realness that you really would never see on the likes of Instagram, but then again, it’s that way for a reason. Who wants to see, well, not see a blurred picture of nothingness? In addition, from the actual process of me writing this opinion piece I discovered that, while choosing the photos for the cover page (ironically cherry-picked in itself), BeReal really exposes my subconscious tendency to tuck my hair behind my ears in photos, random, I know, don’t even ask me why I do that because I won’t have an answer for you. So this uncovering of your reflex to ‘pose’ is in many manners two-fold in what it tells us; we are ‘being real’ in our unintentional posing, but also, it causes the unwarranted revelation that maybe social media is just that inherent to us that this is the outcome.

Now to the silver linings – rant over, or is it?

Documenting memories

So often, we only really document the mainstream ‘special’ moments that are deemed a ‘must’ to capture. Not only does BeReal offer the opportunity to appreciate even the seemingly mundane moments in life, but it also takes the stress and supposed formality off posting. The simplicity of one snapshot photo for one day is a nice breather from the usual semantics of drafting an Instagram post. For someone whose Instagram is brimmed with archived photos and drafts, BeReal is a refreshing change that breaks my overthinking spiral over something as silly as posting a photo. We all had the same influx of ‘2022 Recap’ BeReal posts on our Instagram story feed and while tedious at the time, no I did not contribute to the spam, in hindsight, it acts as a great online scrapbook of the year’s memories, hate to admit it but made me feel rather nostalgic and emotional.

The public shame of a retake(s)

While it slightly undermines the concept that you can take endless retakes, I personally would rather delete the BeReal post as a whole than have that public shaming of the display revealing how many times you retook the photo. BeReal ensures that those of us who ‘fake it till we make it’ does not get off scratch free and in this sense, it promotes a ‘realness’ I can truly get behind in showing the side of social media that we don’t normally see from behind the scenes; of those countless edits or numerous photos of the same moment altered to fit the constructed idea of a ‘picture perfect’ photo.

Keeping up with friends

I’m currently in that weird liminal space where half of my friends are off in their first year at university and the others are galivanting across the globe. This was actually my main motivation behind downloading BeReal in the first place. It’s a great space where you can actively see what everyone is doing and where they’re doing it. While I like to think I’m pretty good at keeping up with my friends and as much as I love hearing what they’re up to via FaceTime or text, BeReal offers a more effortless way when, in the nicest way possible, don’t get me wrong I love my friends, but when you can’t be bothered for a drawn out phone call.

Anti-Lurker – Combats the passive onlooker

This, in all honesty, is rather hypocritical coming from me, but BeReal is great at ridding social media of passive creepers who lurk on feeds and never really participate. The way in which you have to post to see what others have posted is a key strength of the app and is unmatched on any other social platform.

[Enter unresolved conclusion here]

So this may seem like a slightly ambivalent judgement but, to be honest, I think the app is great and will continue to use it in the future. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that BeReal on the whole actually achieves what it sets out to do, but that’s on us. The concept is unique and innovative and I love the idea of everyone posting when they should and being real. There’s something really unifying about that. However, as I have mentioned, the app’s functioning among users does not match its purpose and arguably, there’s nothing more antisocial than everyone receiving a notification simultaneously telling them to post on social media.

All in all, while BeReal has its faults and cannot live up to its name among an audience who refuses to abide, the app helps to make me feel connected from distant friends to nearest and dearest and so, the love-hate relationship continues…

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