BeReal isn’t the revolutionary social media app everybody thinks it is
It’s giving major 2016 Snapchat streaks vibes
BeReal is the app in which a daily notification gives you two minutes to simultaneously take a picture using your phone’s front and back cameras. These are then posted to a feed for your friends to see.
The grip it has on us all is terrifying, resembling a hysteria and popularity not far off that of Tumblr in 2013. In fact, according to a recent report by Data.ai, BeReal has been downloaded 3.2 million times worldwide since January 2022, bringing its total users to five million.
Let’s be honest, there is nothing quite like the sweet relief when you finally receive that notification whilst at a bustling social gathering and you can gather all of your friends into a perfect group pose. The satisfaction of knowing that your BeReal today will scream: “I’m a socialite with a ton of friends who is living life to the max” is unparalleled.
Many have thoroughly enjoyed the novel app, seeing it as a chance to break away from the overly filtered and carefully curated nature of apps such as Instagram and TikTok. But for an increasing number, this seems to be far too optimistic. BeReal actually fuels our desires to appear digitally “picture-perfect”, setting unrealistic expectations and comparisons regarding how we should be conducting our daily lives.
The Tab spoke to several students from unis across the UK about their honest opinions on BeReal: Here’s what they had to say:
‘It’s made me feel like I’m having a less fun uni experience’
Ella from the University of Manchester expressed her feelings of inadequacy and exclusion when she’s frequently logged onto BeReal to see all of her friends out partying whilst she sat in her student accommodation room on her own.
“It’s made me realise what I’m missing out on,” Ella said, with such pictures leading her to frequently question if she’s “doing uni right”- a fear that many freshers report as a result of comparing their initial university experiences to those they see on social media.
Though BeReal may have initially sought to subvert the same insecurity-generating impacts of Instagram, in practice, the app actually appears to be reproducing them, with the daily notifications once again forcing many young people into direct forms of digitally-created comparison. In fact, for Ella, she went as far to say that BeReal has made her feel “worse than Instagram.”
‘It’s not as real as I initially thought’
Aside from generating feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, Elena from the University of Durham also criticised the app for failing to achieve its apparent goal: being real.
Indeed, she reported a frequent trend in which many users intentionally ignore the notification and wait several hours before posting their BeReals, strategically waiting until the perfect moment where they up to something perceivably fun or sociable.
As a result of such tactical posting, you might ask what the point of BeReal even is? What purpose does it serve if people are simply performatively posting in the same way they would a curated Instagram or Snapchat photo?
‘It feels urgently stressful’
Megan from the University of Bristol says the daily notification resembles the previous (and rather stressful tbh) era of snapchat streaks, in which there was great pressure to engage digitally on a daily basis.
Rather than posting (and increasing her screen time) with purpose, she shared that she now simply “posts for the sake of it” after receiving an influx of messages from friends asking why she’s not yet posted her BeReal, subsequently creating an unnecessary daily burden she could “do without.”
‘I don’t like how mainstream its become’
For Katie from the University of Edinburgh, BeReal was initially a fun and light-hearted form of social media amongst her and her closest friends. However, she says that in recent months it has become far too “mainstream,” with her now receiving an increasing number of requests from people she hasn’t seen for years, an experience that mirrors her Instagram following as being dominated by acquaintances, rather than close friends.
Beyond being a mere inconvenience, these requests have also made her feel expected to share often rather intimate parts of her daily life with practical strangers, a trend she feels may have damning impacts.
So, has BeReal lost its authentic appeal in its entirety, falling into the same performative, unrealistic and shallow realm of social media apps such as Instagram? I think that’s probably going too far. For me, the app should be understood as what it is – a form of social media, incapable of escaping or subverting its performative function.