“Download BeReal,” my roommate implored me for the umpteenth time, adding emphasis to her emotional appeal through a sharp nudge to my side.
“No,” I responded firmly, swatting her hand away. As someone with a practically nonexistent digital footprint, I’d gotten used to resisting pleas from my friends to “get on the grid,” so my affirmative denial came almost reflexively.
“Pleaseeeeee,” she begged, “I promise it’s different from other social media apps. It’s literally designed to deconstruct the fakeness of Instagram.”
At the sound of this, my ears immediately perked up. When I used to have social media, Instagram had always been the greatest source of strain on my mental health. As cliche as it sounds, I very quickly began basing my self-worth off of objectively meaningless indicators such as likes and comments, grappling with feelings of inadequacy and FOMO and allowing mistrust and doubt to manifest into my personal relationships based on people’s presence and behaviors online. Such negative experiences eventually led me to make a clean break from social media all together, and I became a fierce opponent of it.
So the thought of a social media platform that could dismantle the very problems I had with social media itself piqued my interest — was such a feat really possible?
I thought I might as well find out. A few clicks later, and I ventured off into the world of BeReal, a new age Luddite treading carefully in an all too familiar yet brand new online landscape.
As its name suggests, BeReal is a social media app that seeks to capture authentic moments and eliminate reliance on photo editing, filters and heavily staged photoshoots. The platform only allows its users to post once a day at randomly designated times when they receive a notification stating, “It’s time to BeReal.” Once the notification appears, users have two minutes to snap a photo that uses both the front and back camera, showing a dual perspective of both the user’s face and what the user sees in front of them.
Users are prevented from seeing their friends’ posts on their feeds until they have completed their own post. And for those who fail to snap a photo on time, the app will list how long after the original notification that the user posted their photo. Though BeReal is purposely designed with limited features, the app does feature the ability to leave comments and reactions in which people can upload quick selfies in response to seeing their friends’ posts.
At first, I had reservations about BeReal due to its similar format to Snapchat, another photo-sharing app that encourages its users to post about the daily happenings of their lives. Like Instagram, Snapchat had been damaging to my mental health — it produced within me a compulsion to not only document everything that I was doing, but also to reduce moments of my day into content to be peddled to the public. You may not realize it until you’re removed from the situation, but it is utterly exhausting to whittle every aspect of your life into a digestible snippet for others to consume and enjoy.
However, BeReal directly addresses these concerns by barring its users from sharing a continuous stream of updates throughout the day. BeReal’s one daily photo limit is crucial to why I enjoy the app so deeply — it prevents me from being constantly tuned into others’ lives, yet still satiates my core human desire to connect with others. I’ve found that the one snapshot is the perfect balance. It’s just enough for me to feel more engaged with my friends’ lives, yet it lends itself to easy detachment because I can just take my one picture, quickly scroll through my feed and then close the app until the next day since I know no new content is coming in. Then, I can actually dedicate my headspace to what’s occurring in front of me in real life.
Another aspect of BeReal that I love is its normalization of relaxation and down time. As a chronic workaholic and people pleaser (a dangerous combo, I know), I have long since struggled with setting aside time for myself. Typically, I am constantly pressuring myself to either work productively or attend social events. Perhaps exacerbated by people’s perfectly curated lives on social media, I was always caught up in the notion that everyone was always out and about, accomplishing impressive feats or having tons of fun with their friends.
However, seeing my friends — even ones I deemed as the most extroverted — shamelessly upload pictures of themselves laying in bed at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon or staying in to watch movies in their dorm room on a Friday evening has opened my eyes to the inaccuracy of the narratives I had constructed about what other people were up to. I realized that my desires to have time alone were valid and universal; I began to accept that it’s okay to choose me and do what I genuinely want to do instead of always pressuring myself to conform to other people’s desires for fear of being perceived negatively.
Doing too much of anything — whether good or bad — will ultimately cause burn out and diminish your zest for life. Sometimes, we all just need time to recharge and practice self-care, and BeReal definitely encourages that.
Beyond all these personal reasons, BeReal is also just fun! One thing that releasing myself from social media has never erased is my narcissism; sometimes, just pulling out my phone and snapping a quick selfie, especially when the notification serendipitously arrives when I’m with friends, can be a great serotonin boost.
Overall, I’m a fan of BeReal. It’s a low commitment endeavor that serves a breath of fresh air against the current backdrop of energy-intensive social media platforms. And, as a bonus, having BeReal expands my online presence beyond Facebook and LinkedIn so that I finally have some concrete evidence that I’m not actually a 30-year-old working professional who has extended her stay in college for way too long. I’m Gen-Z, I swear — you can add me on BeReal @vivhoangg7 to confirm.