What’s the deal with BeReal?

The latest craze represents the majority of what’s wrong with current-day social media culture

Zachary Carter, Contributing Writer

Social media has been boiled down to a point where its users want to know exactly what others are doing at any moment during the day. What was once a collection of platforms to connect with friends and family around the world has now become a toolbox that borders on an invasion of privacy.

Insert BeReal, an app designed to do exactly that. Launched officially in 2020, the app remained relatively unknown until this year, when it began to spread like wildfire among college campuses in the U.S.

The app sends an alert once a day, at a randomly assigned time that provokes users to take a photo with the front camera and one with the back within two minutes of receiving the notification. Encouraging you to “be real,” the user can literally see exactly where their friends are and what they are doing at that time. Failure to post within the two-minute window marks one’s post as “late.”

BeReal possesses a design that is so simple, it’s difficult to believe nobody thought of it sooner.

Now picture this. It’s 1:47 p.m on a Monday. You are lying in bed after three consecutive morning classes that started at 8 a.m. Your phone flashes, time to BeReal. “Great,” you think. All of your friends are going to think you’re lame because you’re sleeping in the afternoon rather than being productive elsewhere.

Here lies my first gripe with the app.

A double-sided picture describing your current actions does not do your online presence any justice. Without context, I can easily make judgments about my friends, what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

In addition, the app provides a retake feature that allows users to try again if they’re unsatisfied with how their first picture turned out. If you regret posting your BeReal for that day, you can delete it altogether. Does this not go against the whole point of the app? Yes, the app displays to other users how many retakes each person used, but it seems redundant to include it altogether.

By the time I first downloaded the app in late August, most of my friends had already familiarized themselves with it. I considered it a way to keep in touch with them when we all went off to our respective colleges. But the more I used it, the more I began to realize it wasn’t worth my time.

As I scrolled through my feed, I realized that almost every picture that I saw was posted late. The range varied from 10 minutes late to 10 hours late. It was obvious that people didn’t care enough to post at the exact time that the notification came in because it was too much of an inconvenience to them. If BeReal popped up at 6 p.m., I probably wouldn’t see most of my friends’ posts until after 10 p.m.

In addition, I’ve seen BeReal users blatantly ignoring the threatening warning signs headlining the notification, opting instead to wait until a later time because they will have something more interesting to show to the world. They sacrifice posting on time for the clout they would receive by posting something cool. In doing so, they are straying entirely from the core values of the app.

They sacrifice posting on time for the clout they would receive by posting something cool. In doing so, they are straying entirely from the core values of the app.

— Zachary Carter, contributing writer

The whole point of BeReal is to spread some authenticity in a world smothered by social media artificiality. Instagram users can pick and choose when and where they post. They put on a persona to appear more likable to their followers. TikTok users are forced to comply with the ebbs and flows of ongoing trends in hopes to retain the following that they have amassed.

BeReal, in theory, is supposed to do the exact opposite, and it has failed. Once again users of this app find themselves putting on a front to appear more personable to their followers.

If it was up to me, I’d make the app even simpler. Don’t allow users to post late. Miss the two-minute window? Too bad. Pay closer attention tomorrow so you can participate with the rest of us using the app correctly.

But that raises the question, “What if I’m not on my phone at that time?” A solution is to broaden the timing window. Up the time that somebody has to “be real” from two minutes to 10 minutes so that more people can engage. Posting 20 hours late defeats the whole purpose of using the app.

Social media has a big problem and BeReal’s transcendence has only made it worse. In a world full of phony authenticity, the app is blatantly intrusive. People are too dependent on social media, so much so that they need to know exactly where people are and what they’re doing at all hours of the day. If you ask me, that seems a little creepy.

BeReal gives its users too much information in real time. Those who choose not to abide by the app’s design may as well not use it at all.

Posting late is an oxymoron. Ignoring the notification to instead post later when you are doing something more interesting is cheap.

The app itself is counterintuitive, so why have it at all?