It’s one of those beautiful days on the BC Plaza, where the sun is shining and the breeze is light and it seems as if the entire school has escaped their dorm rooms or skipped class to soak it all in. Each tiny green table is surrounded by too many rickety chairs as more and more people pull up a seat, joining in on this glorious moment.
Then something shifts. One by one, people begin picking up their phones, like in those 2000s high school movies where the whole school finds out about a rumor at the same time. Yet this notification isn’t one of drama or gossip; it’s of delight. Because everyone on the BC is at the right place at the right time and can document it for all of their friends to see.
“!!!Time to Be Real!!!”
As each person takes turns snapping their photo for the day, the friends pause their conversations to pose. First, you take a photo with the back camera, showing your followers what you’re doing at that moment. Then, you pose for a selfie. You check it — oops! There’s a piece of spinach between your teeth! But don’t worry, you can always retake it. You just have to ask your friends to pose for their picture again.
The posing, the reposing. The uploading, the comments, the likes, the reactions. These are all things our generation is familiar with. Most of us downloaded Instagram in middle school and are quite apt at curating our online presence, quite acquainted with the dopamine rush that comes with each social media interaction. We have numerous outlets to express ourselves in ways that align exactly with how we wish to be perceived. Instagram for perfectly organized photo dumps and film accounts that show “a slice of my life”, TikTok for dances and what-I-eat-in-a-days, LinkedIn for “I’m thrilled to share I’ve just accepted a new position at ____”. All of these apps combine to devise a whole blueprint of a person, with nearly every aspect of our personhood — from our careers to our interests to our friend groups — broadcast to the world.
But we know this, and we accept its artifice. Everyone knows that our social media presences aren’t real, especially because almost all of us participate in our own curations. “Social media is just a highlight reel,” we acknowledge. We’re aware of FaceTune and filters. Social media no longer really claims to be authentic.
Until one new app claimed it could change it all: BeReal — “Your friends for Real.” Its byline in the Apple App store is “Not another social network,” followed by its current ranking at No. 8 in Social Networking. Its description reads “BeReal is life, Real life, and this life is without filters” and “BeReal is your chance to show your friends who you really are, for once.” The idea behind the app is that since there are only 2 minutes where you can post “on time,” it eliminates the possibility of curation. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re at a party or if you’re on the toilet. What matters is that you’re “being real” and sharing everyday moments with your friends. It’s all of the beauty of social media and none of its harm.
When BeReal gained popularity during the summer of 2022, I refused to download it because I thought, “Do we really need another app to show yet another aspect of our lives to the Internet?” But my friends swore that it was different from the rest and that they loved being able to see what their friends back home were up to. I couldn’t download it because I had already been so vocally against it, but I assumed that it was just a fad that would blow over in a couple of months.
But a year later, its popularity persists. In late 2022, it was named Apple’s App of the Year. As of February 2023, it has over 10 million daily active users, an increase of 29200% in the last year. Even my twenty-six-year-old brother uses it.
However, in the past year, I’ve heard people change the way they talk about BeReal’s function. If you think you don’t look good in your selfie, there’s no shame in retaking it a few times until you look presentable enough. On multiple occasions, I’ve seen someone burst into tears because one of their friend’s BeReal had their ex-boyfriend in the background or because too many girls were posting selfie reactions to their crush’s post. More often than not, people “save” their BeReal for when they’re doing something fun, or hanging out with friends. I’ve heard countless times, “Don’t you just hate it when you spend the whole day with people and then BeReal goes off right when you get home?”
BeReal is like a pick-me-girl. It acts as if it is “not like other social media apps,” but in reality, it is just like every other app. Users do everything they can to portray themselves as attractive, interesting, and social. At least apps like Instagram and TikTok are self-aware. BeReal is especially toxic because it is performativity feigning authenticity. The result is yet another platform where people measure their lives against others, feeling as if their life is less-than because they’re chilling in bed while it seems as if everyone else is out having fun.
Is nothing sacred anymore? Can we not keep some parts of our lives to ourselves? What happened to being mysterious? Some might say that I’m overreacting and that “it’s not that deep,” and maybe that’s true. I’m sure there are many ethical BeReal users who always post on time, even when they’re doing something unspectacular. But it is undeniable that the advent of more and more apps, each asking us to share yet another part of ourselves with the world, is steadily suffocating us with the pressure of perfection. BeReal, in practice, is perpetuating this exact issue even as it pretends to defy it.
North Carolina’s very own J. Cole once said there’s no such thing as a life that’s better than yours. Don’t let BeReal convince you that there is.
Pilar Kelly is a Trinity junior. Her column typically runs on alternating Tuesdays.
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Pilar Kelly is a Trinity junior and an opinion columnist for The Chronicle's 118th volume.