When the BeReal notification goes off, my friends dread when it's my turn. I always use the front camera first, so I have more time to “fix my face.” I typically do at least three retakes.
But I can’t be the only one who’s not actually real on BeReal; we have all waited until we were hanging out with our friends to take the picture, until we finished our makeup – or we simply decided we were going to skip it.
A couple weeks ago when BeReal went off, I was just laying in bed. I looked fine enough, I had a cute top on, there was no reason to wait to take it. So I opened my phone and laid there for about 10 minutes opening and closing the app so that the number of retakes wouldn’t be visible to my friends on the app, hoping I would like one photo I took. In the end, I posted the photo below.
It's a fine picture. I’ve taken better ones but it’ll eventually get replaced with a new one in less than 48 hours anyways, so why was I getting so caught up in this one little post?
This is a shared struggle, and not just on BeReal. Social media has not challenged us to post authentically in years, maybe since its conception. So fundamentally, BeReal is against our curated nature.
I decided to ask others about the struggle to be authentic online. I know there are others like me out there; there have to be.
In my search, I found Sadie Frankel, a second-year Medill student, and I explained my situation to her. She jokingly said, “I don’t have this issue, I have a healthy relationship with BeReal.”
I could not relate to Frankel on any level. My search continued and I slowly became insecure. Maybe this was just my personal issue. Right as I was about to give up, I found someone who resonated with me.
“I am fake and proud to be fake,” said Rachana Aluri, a first-year Weinberg student. “I like to look back at my memories and see what I did that day with my friends, not just me laying in my bed.”
I was completely taken aback by her candidness. But in my experience, Aluri's mentality is common on BeReal: taking the picture late to capture the best part of our day. We only want to show the world the fun parts of our lives.
It is not just me who runs into this internal conflict, it's four out of 10 teenagers. About 43% of United States teenagers ranging from ages 13-17 “feel pressure to only post content that makes them look good to others,” according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey. This pressure forces us to want to add everything we post online to the metaphorical highlight reel that social media is. All in hopes of making others feel like our lives are much cooler than theirs.
This very edited approach goes against what BeReal set out to do. Considering the app’s slogan is “Your Friends for Real.”
I think the goal is to be like Frankel. To be more transparent, or even just to care less. The posts are temporary, and there is always tomorrow’s BeReal. Yet for so people, myself included, the reality of BeReal is more aligned with Aluri's mindset.
Social media has given us this open access to anyone’s life, and in turn we are constantly comparing our bodies, our clothes and our lives. BeReal gave us a platform to interact with each other while lessening the worries about our looks or what people will infer about us through each post. We had a chance, and we did not take it — at least, I haven't and some others haven't.
Maybe it's not our fault. As a generation that was raised on social media, we haven't been taught to post something unfiltered or unedited without thinking twice.
If you don't post within the two minute timeframe of when BeReal notification goes off, your post is deemed late. Under the photo, the post will tell others how many hours late it was. But even by posting late, you are not misleading anyone into thinking that you are always out, Aluri said. She believes that this feature acts as a disclaimer for her “fakeness.”
I have never thought of the late feature as a disclaimer before Aluri talked about it that way. It makes sense though: The late feature says to people that each person posted something different than what they were doing when the BeReal notification went off. It says that you were not real when you should have been. The late feature takes away the authenticity and the magic of it all.
But it seems like the creators of BeReal added in some safeguards for people like Aluri and me. Some of my friends make comments on their posts like, “I waited to take my BeReal for when we go out tonight.”
I believe that the key to being authentic on social media is to not care about what other people think of you. People are going to make assumptions about you that can be untrue, or perceive you in a way that doesn’t align with who you actually are, so who cares right? But this is way easier said than done.
I will be the first to admit that I am perfectly okay with people thinking I am more confident than I actually am or that I have a way better social life than I actually do. As a matter of fact, I want people to think that when they look at my profiles. Why on earth would I want anyone to know that I was friendless my freshman year of college, or that I second guess every photo I post based on how my body looks? While people are going to judge you no matter what, social media is the one place where you have some control of how others perceive you, even if it is a small amount of control.
But some others do use social media as an inside look into deep parts of our minds. Some people have two separate accounts on one app for this exact purpose (on Instagram, these are known as "finstas").
My new goal with social media is to post more of the mundane good things that happen everyday, not just the planned events like concerts and parties. If that means that it’s just a picnic with my friends or a cute coffee shop window, then so be it. I’m trying to not focus on likes or views but on being able to look through my post and remember the memory, not the posing of it.
BeReal is as real or unreal as you make it. Hopefully, some time soon, I will hear the notification go off, take the photo once and post within the time limit. If you have learned anything from this article I hope it's this: take everything on BeReal with a grain of salt.