One of the most recent internet crazes among college students is BeReal, an app that was created in 2020 and has since grown popular worldwide. However, it’s not your typical social network, and it may be redefining social media as we know it.
The way it works is simple: once a day at a random time, all users simultaneously receive a notification telling them that it’s “Time to BeReal.” They then have two minutes to post a picture of themselves at that moment, no filters or editing, and any retakes or late posts will be noted on the app and exposed to friends.
While BeReal is inherently different than most other forms of social media, it still has the core interactive elements. Users can pair their daily posts with captions, and friends can respond to one another in the form of reactions or comments. However, the spontaneous, time-sensitive nature of the app makes for a far more authentic experience.
It seems that BeReal is taking social media back to its roots. There’s little room on the app for fame, influencing or brand marketing, all of which have largely taken over other platforms.
However, like any other app, users have the freedom to use it how they want, and they can hypothetically bend the rules.
Say, for example, you have something really exciting planned for your day, but your phone tells you that it’s “Time to BeReal” while you’re still laying in bed in your pajamas. You have the option to wait to post until that far more interesting moment, but what’s “real” about that?
As long as you’re using the app how it’s intended, what you’re sharing is going to be authentic to your life.
Other apps have embraced a similar format. TikTok introduced a new feature called TikTok Now in September of 2022. Clearly inspired by BeReal, it works by giving users three minutes to take and upload a picture of themselves to their friends’ feeds.
But while the push for internet authenticity has never been clearer than today, the concept is not exactly new.
In 2021, there was a movement to “make Instagram casual again,” encouraging users to post photo dumps of their lives and candid pictures as opposed to edited, posed shots. Social media stars and influencers also seem to be more relatable than ever by creating daily vlogs and maintaining relationships with their followers.
Around the world and across the internet, users seem to be longing for a more real, more candid, more casual and more social social media. So where along the way did we go wrong?
As members of Gen Z, we’ve grown up alongside social media. Most of us have been on Instagram and Snapchat since their debuts in the early 2010s, experienced Vine before it fell off the face of the internet and have witnessed Musical.ly’s transition to what we now know as TikTok. Throughout the years, we’ve seen thousands of trends cycle before our eyes.
As the loyal followers and the very force that keeps these social sites running, we’ve played a part in these changes ourselves.
Sometime within the past decade or two, social media took a turn. Likes, followers and the ever-elusive idea of “going viral” have made the focus of these platforms more about being popular than being social. Anonymity and nearly unrestricted freedom have allowed cyberbullying to run rampant, while filters, photo retouching and carefully-curated feeds have allowed us to portray ourselves in our most flattering light.
Today, social media can be a toxic environment. What we see online is rarely an accurate representation of someone’s life.
As far as I see it, social media functions like a virtual society.
While there are people in power, users pretty much govern themselves. With such massive audiences, trends are able to spread like wildfire, making it difficult to place blame on certain individuals.
That being said, I think it’s safest and fairest to say that all users are partially to blame for the negative turn of events.
Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. We seem to have reached a general consensus that social media is no longer authentic, but we can’t quite let go of those polished versions of ourselves that we’ve created online.
On apps like BeReal, you have two options: You can portray yourself in an honest and authentic manner, or you can ignore its intended nature and plan your posts to maintain a desired appearance.
And an even tougher pill to swallow? If you find yourself bending the rules to appear a certain way on BeReal, maybe it’s your daily habits that could use some tweaking. Perhaps it’s not the app for you.
But the good news is, you don’t have to participate in the app. Even as BeReal is becoming increasingly popular and influential, the catalog of existing social media is extensive.
For now, at least we’re aware of the problem and taking a step in the right direction. And, although social media has become a rather ugly place to be, the beauty of it remains — you can still customize your own experience and use it however you please.