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15th May 2022

How long will we ‘BeReal’ for?: The rise of trending new app

Everyone on campus seems to have BeReal at the moment, so we explore why the app is so popular, and how long it is likely to last
How long will we ‘BeReal’ for?: The rise of trending new app
Photo: The Mancunion @ Canva

BeReal is Gen Z’s latest trend, and like most opportunities to overshare online, I love it. I’m a prolific story poster for many reasons, but first and foremost because I find it fun.

BeReal seems to have less negative side effects than other social media platforms, such as the compulsion to compare and the cringing that comes a couple years later. I find myself wondering, though, if we will continue using BeReal for a long time or if it will become a mocked relic of the past, like sending Snapchat streaks.

The app is simple: it sends a notification to all app users at one random time every day, they take a picture with the front and back camera (with a slight delay), and those pictures get posted for your friends to see.

Its other features include reacting to posts, a post map, and sharing to other social media platforms. Compared to the stories, reels, replies, direct messaging, minigames, influencers, likes, comments, and follower counts we are usually (albeit voluntarily) subject to on other apps, BeReal is welcome and enjoyable in its simplicity.

Its purpose is in the name – to be real, and counter social media perfectionism to discover what people are really like in their daily lives.

But this is where I start asking questions.

I’m not sure if you can ever prevent, or if you should prevent, the careful cultivation of social media content. On BeReal, people wait until they’re doing something exciting and then post late, or pose specifically for the picture.

I’ve been known to wait until you can’t tell I’ve been crying (I’m a water sign), and these are just a few examples of performance that carry the risk of social comparison. I’ve had multiple conversations about this as my friends and I have tried to decide whether we care how many reactions we get compared to others, a habit of a generation chronically online.

I can also admit that when I’m in bed watching Glee for the tenth time and I see someone out clubbing or even being productive in the library I can start to feel bad about myself. Perhaps the amusement I get from BeReal is what has made me overthink it, classically turning something simple and fun into relatively deep conversation and self-reflection.

Overall, though, I maintain that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to BeReal, and there are several ways to ensure it remains enjoyable and doesn’t join Vine and MySpace in the social media graveyard.

Maintaining it as solely a platform to interact with friends is relatively niche for a social media, and important to avoid a lot of comparison. There’s no potential to build a career on BeReal, unlike Instagram and YouTube, meaning there are no influencers with seemingly perfect lives to compare yourself with.

My advice to people like me who can’t help but compare our productivity and social life to those around us is to recognise that despite its purpose, BeReal will never truly represent someone’s life. Nobody wants to post when they’re sobbing over a break-up or even just feeling insecure (believe me), nor should they feel pressure to.

I’ve become better at recognising that someone might feel the most like themselves and most ‘real’ when they are dressed up at the club, and that doesn’t make my reality less impressive. Also, there’s no one to impress if you only add the people you’re comfortable with, which I recommend if you’re an overthinker like me.

I would initially shame people for posting late, but I’ve realised that if I want BeReal to last it must remain an app where people can enjoy it in their own way, and the freedom that comes with less exposure and social norms of posting maintains this.

However, I think another important feature that contributes to BeReal’s potential longevity is the timed notification. Not only is it unique, but it can lead to funny posts and memories as well as building a sense of anticipation and excitement.

I complain about my BeReals being boring, but a personal highlight that illustrates my point is in the week after exams when I happened to be in bed every single time BeReal sent out their notification. It’s funny in retrospect, and so I like to use the time limit feature.

With that being said, I reaffirm that nobody should feel pressure to post exactly what they’re doing all of the time, so my advice is essentially to do what works for you without worrying too much about others. After all, being real doesn’t necessarily mean being on time.

The time sensitivity element of BeReal is not its only defining feature. The fact that it requires less effort than other social media will also help maintain its popularity. For years it has felt like people have been trying to create a separate social media presence for friends only, with second Instagram accounts being the main example that comes to mind.

The popularity of the ‘Finsta’ or ‘spam account’ has declined, perhaps as social media platforms now have private story features to use on public accounts, but also because it is a lot of effort to maintain both a public and private presence across (on average) 3 social media platforms.

I personally removed my followers from my private Instagram as I started to feel insecure about it when I moved to university, which is a whole other conversation, but overall, I couldn’t be bothered to maintain it. In contrast, BeReal requires you to post once a day, with one picture, regardless of the context.

The fun element is not lost because it requires a minimum level of effort and has comparatively little room for performance even if you post late. As well as being less effort, it takes up less time due to the small amount of content to be consumed, which in turn makes it less addictive. Therefore, I would still argue that BeReal’s positive impact persists even without time sensitivity.

My favourite part of BeReal is how it keeps you in touch with people. I enjoyed seeing what university friends were doing over Easter and likewise for home friends during term time. One of the key differences between BeReal and other apps is that you have to post everyday if you want to see everyone else’s posts, so naturally you keep up to date with people.

I read online (on a TikTok) about how sweet ‘Realmojis’, aka reactions to posts, are, and I have to agree. My appreciation for BeReal outweighs any social comparison I have been subject to, which is why I love the app and will defend it to the complainers.

Although I have questioned it, I also think that BeReal can achieve its intended purpose of countering social media perfectionism and discovering what people are really like if that is what its users decide to share. The refreshing lack of features would make it extremely difficult to communicate a ‘perfect’ life on BeReal, but, as I said, is it also important to break the habit of associating social media with real life and to understand people will still control what they post.

Whether this means people are not ‘being real,’ is open to debate. For now, though, I can safely say that a lasting enjoyment and popularity of BeReal requires a healthy mindset, detached from the habits of other social medias, that can only be maintained if the app developers keep it simple.

Trends on the internet come and go, and I already find myself interacting less with BeReal than I did a month ago, but my friends and I have been posting every day for months and it doesn’t look likely to stop just yet. I think a balance needs to be found between maintaining the app’s simplicity and keeping it engaging, and I really hope developers find it.

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