Online Authenticity: How Real is BeReal?

By Virany Leng, Lauren Sun, and Emily Belhumeur

In the past couple of months, you may have noticed the rapid rise of a new platform: BeReal. The app has recently taken the teen demographic by storm, offering a unique purpose. The mechanics of the app are quite simple. Essentially, BeReal sends out a notification once a day at random. It alerts users to take a photo of what they’re currently doing, regardless of what or when. Unlike its popular predecessors, such as Snapchat or Instagram, there are no options for filters or post-processing before you post. This encourages users to be truly authentic, contrary to Instagram, where every post, caption, story, and comment is carefully curated to perfection.

The app has gained so much popularity that other social media platforms have tried to introduce their own aspects of BeReal into their user interface. TikTok has recently added a “Now” feature that is strikingly similar to BeReal as it allows users to see what their friends are doing. At first glance, this looks to be a favorable idea. In a world where teens are constantly consumed with skewed perceptions of one another, it seems what they critically need is a candid lens. But taking a closer look, is this “authenticity” really any different from other social media platforms at all?

The key thing that sets BeReal apart from other social media is the opportunity to just be who you are in that moment, not worrying about how you are presenting yourself. 

Obviously, the app can’t force you to post a photo at the very moment your alert goes off, so you are technically able to be as late as you want in doing it. You might be going to a concert in an hour, and want to wait to take your BeReal there, and you can do that- but your friends will see that it has been posted late. Does this completely defeat the purpose, or even create an unspoken stigma around doing so? 

Let’s say you take a bad photo and want to retake it. You can do this, of course, but people will be able to see how many retakes you take and could wonder why you care so much when this is an app designed for you not to care. 

The whole point of BeReal is to be genuine, but maybe authenticity is too much pressure- or even unachievable. It is surely a step closer to a low-pressure, undemanding social media, but it might not fulfill all that it claims to. 

BeReal can show people’s obsession with how individuals are perceived. People must be accepted because nothing is more important than to be seen. 

The ironic thing is, does it matter? No one really cares all that much about others’ appearance online, or really offline. People undeniably care most about themselves. 

Pretending the photos are natural to “be real” is not a really new concept. Photoshopping, specific poses for flattering angles, and thousands of dollars on make-up artists and stylists are old news, and even without directly saying it, do imply natural and effortless photos. People rely on others’ attention on social media, on and offline. A person could post about a charitable act, and be spoken about as a good, moral person, but is it all for the person to promote themself?

From one perspective, BeReal is just another social media that preaches authenticity but doesn’t actually achieve it. From another, BeReal is a rare opportunity allowing teens to be genuine on social media. 

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