BeReal and our need for contrived authenticity

Kiki Brehmer, Staff Writer

If you do not know about the social media platform that has many a Westmont student in its grasp, or if you have been puzzled when half the students in chapel simultaneously whip out their phone to snap a photo, let me introduce you to a recently trending social media app: BeReal. 

BeReal is an app that sends a notification simultaneously to all its users at a random time each day. The user is then prompted to take a candid photo using both their front-facing and rear-facing camera at the same time. In order to post a photo on time, BeReal users have two minutes to display what they are doing in that moment and post it. Anyone who has the app and follows an individual can see their post. In this way the app promotes what its name suggests: being real. The number of retakes of the picture is shown as well as how late a photo is posted.

I do believe people value realness, and this can be shown by people distancing themselves from apps like Instagram, famous for curated, picture-perfect feeds, and joining short video apps like TikTok where a lot of the creators are just ordinary people. There has also been the mini-movement to “make Instagram casual,” where candids and photo dumps take the place over photoshoots and perfectly posed photos. 

It has recently come to a lot of people’s attention that social media can be very fake. Retouched photos, for one, lie about what people truly look like, and the continual framing of photos to show a perfect life when something very different may be going on behind the camera, are two things that people have recognized.

The setup of BeReal seems to go against these notions of social media untruths. However, I believe that BeReal is perhaps just another facade for the deceit of social media. Maybe it’s just a fact that the intrinsic falsehood of social media can’t be escaped, no matter the platform. BeReal is an app which sets itself apart from other apps because it claims to facilitate authenticity. However, in actuality the app is far from achieving true authenticity. 

As a frequent user of the app, I have noticed behaviors that contrast with the supposed honesty. Few people post within the designated two minutes, and many ignore the lateness of their posts. Disregarding the time slot and taking a picture whenever of whatever action they choose, rather than the raw and spontaneous moment BeReal is designed for, is essentially dishonest.  

Additionally, I have spoken with people who say that they save their posts until the most exciting part of their day, like a concert or a dinner. Presenting the most “fun” or picturesque part of one’s day only on BeReal is just falling into the trap of wanting to make one’s life appear more interesting on social media. To continue, people also post hours late with a photo of just themselves posing. 

I would like to elaborate that I am not a stranger to these behaviors, and I am by no means exempt from the pull to curate an image of one’s life, false as it may be, on social media. Yet, it is difficult to deny that posting late and affected pictures on BeReal misses the point of the app and only supports social media’s phoniness.

Even when we are given a chance to, well, be real, we can’t help but align ourselves a little falsely. Could it be that we aren’t actually looking for authenticity but an imitation of it? Thus, the problem is in fact us and our need for contrived authenticity.

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