My phone buzzes. “Time to BeReal. 2 min left to capture a BeReal and see what your friends are up to!”
It’s 4 p.m. I am studying alone, grinding my p-set in Bass library, a building which grants no optimal lighting nor angles.
I do not take my BeReal.
Instead I wait two hours after dinner to open the app. I click “Post a late BeReal” and instead take a picture and selfie when I am with friends, catching up over the latest scoop and laughing over a pool game which I inevitably lose.
I am not being real on the BeReal. But let’s face it—who is?
Since becoming mainstream in early 2022, BeReal operates as a niche social platform, encouraging users to share a slice of their life at a random time each day. The goal is to bring back authenticity to a social media landscape increasingly characterized by the constant curation of public profiles.
But who exactly is being real on BeReal? Very rarely is someone being real on time. On my daily BeReal scrolls, I see nothing but posts labeled “30 min Late,” “9 hrs Late,” “27 hrs Late” in tiny gray text. Beyond this mark of shame, there is no punishment for not being real; no authority to which we must answer when we betray the platform’s mission for authenticity.
What’s rare is the raw, true BeReal—the BeReal with zero retakes or where the photo’s subjects are not forced into unnatural poses. The reality is, BeReals are not authentic images of our day-to-day lives. If not for the absence of filters and edits, or the selfies included in the top left corner, BeReals would be just regular social media photos.
But is it wrong that the one social media app that pushes us towards a more authentic digital life has become corrupted by the inevitable artificiality bound to all social media? Is it wrong that we are no longer being real on BeReal? Maybe it isn’t.
We already place as much effort on tweets as we place on essays, curate stories to highlight life’s best moments, and filter and edit photos for Instagram to the point of unrecognizability. Why should we expect our BeReals to be any different? While not exactly real, BeReal does deserve some credit: finally, we are given a digital space free from the exhausting complexities of curating images and maximizing engagement. A platform that strips our digital lives of most (but not all) of the facades is nonetheless a platform worth celebrating.
Who’s on your BeReal, anyway? As for myself, only people I’m comfortable with are privileged with viewing the intimate moments of my day-to-day life. I’ve found that many others feel the same way. The platform has steered us towards privacy, where only our *actual* friends see our posts. Doesn’t BeReal then encourage us to be more vulnerable even if only occasionally, to be a little bit more authentic, and to be unafraid of showing times when life hits its inevitable lows in ways that Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter cannot?
Besides, I want to see close friends living their best lives. Seeing loved ones attending parties, eating nice food, traveling, volunteering, or anything else worth doing makes me happy, not insecure. I don’t want to see them spending late nights at the library or suffering over a p-set—I do this often enough with them already. So even if they must pretend, I want to believe those I love and support are living life to the fullest.
Many have already ditched the delusion that we are being real on BeReal. We should follow their example by reclaiming BeReal not as an app that encourages authenticity, but instead as one which creates a safe, private space where we permit snapping photos of our daily lives—however doctored—because no other app enables us to do so. In no other platform am I held accountable by the presence of my friends to record what life looks like on a day-to-day basis.
My BeReal is not a place where I be real. I don’t want or need it to be. When I look back on my BeReal years from now, I might only see the good parts. I might only see an over-romanticized version of what my young adult years looked like. But I want my future self to look back on his youth with nostalgia of “the good old days.” And I’m happy to leave things that way.