It’s Time to BeReal: Tackling Social Media Authenticity

Illustrated by Diane Kim

Kate Fernandez

Contributing Writer

It’s a Friday night, and chaos begins to ensue on the streets of Isla Vista (I.V.). Everywhere you look, people are going to and from parties, concerts, and other I.V. weekend activities that regularly occur. Everyone is leading their own lives, with their unique interests, priorities, and plans for the night. Even so, a considerable amount of these individuals are brought together at one distinct moment — when it’s “Time to BeReal.” 

Though this BeReal phenomenon has definitely seemed to take the world of social media by storm, not everyone recognizes the previously described scenario. For those of us who don’t, BeReal is a social media platform that was released in 2020 by French creators Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau. While the app initially remained under the radar, it began to rapidly gain popularity in 2022, with hoards of people being drawn to the authentic experience that the app promises. So, what exactly makes BeReal so unique?

Essentially, the app works like this: once a day, at a different time each day, a notification from the app will be sent out, declaring that it’s “Time to BeReal.” Once this notification is sent out, users have two minutes to capture and post a BeReal, regardless of their current surroundings or immediate pursuits. To capture a BeReal, the app prompts the user to take a photo using the front camera, immediately followed by a photo using the back camera, with both photos presented together to encompass the full BeReal. Once posted, users may see other people’s BeReals, either from friends that they follow or from users around the world on the discovery page. In doing so, users will be able to see what their friends and acquaintances are currently doing; everyone shares an authentic account of their daily life during that snapshot in time. 

Although the app is successful, it doesn’t evade criticism. There have been instances of widely reported glitches, where users are unable to post their BeReal, or it doesn’t post until hours after the designated time. There is also a retake option, giving people the chance to take a new BeReal if they didn’t like how their last attempt turned out. Some users feel that this feature takes away from the app’s original intention for authenticity. Furthermore, while you cannot see others’ BeReals until you post one yourself, you do have the opportunity to post a late BeReal if you were unable to post when the notification went off. Or rather, if you felt that you had a better, more interesting setting to take your BeReal in. However, while the app is certainly imperfect, its aim for genuine originality compensates for these issues.

It is this form of genuine candidness that has brought about BeReal’s endless praise and acclaim. Many have expressed the feeling that the app is like a breath of fresh air, a far cry from the toxicity of previously established forms of social media such as Instagram or TikTok. Rather than providing a platform for users to present themselves as “perfect” or “trendy,” the app challenges users to exhibit themselves in their natural form, and to embrace their genuine, everyday lives. 

Other social media apps have been criticized for creating unrealistic expectations, particularly for young girls. With the abundance of influencers who focus heavily on beauty, fitness, makeup, and other ‘self-bettering’ pursuits, in addition to the built-in filter options that are quickly applicable, many social media platforms have become a brutal arena for young people to tear each other apart, if not themselves. BeReal has the exact opposite intent — to literally “Be Real.” The implementation of the two-minute time restriction has definitely helped to deter this toxic phenomena on the BeReal platform. This aim for unfiltered raw content attempts to eliminate many of the pressures presented by other social media platforms.

When considering the future of social media, one can only hope that this app will be a trendsetter, changing the way that people post about themselves. There have certainly been other similar movements, such as the shift towards “making Instagram casual again,” or the body positivity movement. More specifically, the “body positivity movement” refers to the community effort towards acceptance of all bodies, regardless of race, weight, gender, and more online. It seems that many long for a more candid approach to social media, and BeReal has taken a major step in that direction. Perhaps over time, other social media platforms will continue to make steps towards honest posting, creating a more accepting and kind space for those who choose to use social media.