Is BeReal real?

Amanda Maltin, Opinions Section Co-Editor

My political science seminar professor prohibits the use of phones in his classroom.  Serendipitously, his class ended right when everyone’s BeReal notification went off today.  My classmate, Molly Tuthill ’24, lifted her iPhone camera and took the most unflattering picture of me I have ever seen.  Then, she posted it.  

The social media platform BeReal surged into prominence last spring and has captured the imagination of twenty-somethings across the world.  For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of BeReal: each day at a random time, a notification prompts all BeReal users to “be real” and take a picture of themselves and their surroundings simultaneously.  

They only have two minutes to capture their image, and, if they retake the photograph, their friends are notified. Then, their photograph is posted onto a feed and they can scroll through all of their other friends’ BeReals. After 24 hours, the posts disappear.  

University students, for example, see a glimpse of their classmates sitting on the quad, grabbing a smoothie at Bison Fresh or walking on the treadmill at the KLARC. Completely unfiltered and unposed, some look at BeReal as a welcome alternative to other social media platforms that people use in an attempt to reduce their lives into a highlight reel. However, some students argue that BeReal only adds to the pressure to always be “camera ready”.  

I asked fellow students how they felt about the platform. 

“I really liked the platform at the beginning.  Now, I feel like people don’t use it for its true purpose anymore,” Claire Doyle ’24 said.

Doyle continued,  “it’s starting to feel like a Snapchat or Instagram story.”  Other students agreed that it has become quite performative.  

Avery ODay ’24 explained “one day, I was walking on the quad when some random freshman approached me and asked me to get in their BeReal so ‘their home friends would think they made friends at college.’” 

Kalin Halstead ’24 echoed this sentiment. “It’s created a mindset that you have to be doing something interesting at every point of the day.  If I’m sitting in bed or watching television when the notification goes off, I feel like my followers are going to think I’m lazy and boring.”

The creators of the BeReal app intended to curate a platform where users felt free to be their authentic selves (to literally “be real”).  However, it has not been able to withstand the overarching norms surrounding social media use.  The landscape surrounding social networking promotes and rewards performative behaviors and filtered content, whether it be with actual editing tools or careful selection of the activities and objects that make the “final cut” to be posted.  

All in all, discussion surrounding the platform begs the question: can we fix the systematic problems associated with social media by creating more social media platforms?  Reviews from fellow students answers the question with a resounding no.  

While BeReal clearly has not been able to accomplish its intended purpose, it does not mean that the platform is inherently bad.  In fact, the less meaning we attach to our social media use, the more we can enjoy it without falling prey to its more sinister attributes. 

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