What The Hell Happened: BeReal App Sweeps College Campuses | Arts
“Casual Instagram” had officially gone too far once the President of the United States posted a snap.
The era of the photo dump was once intended to be a bold rejection of today’s highly polished and aesthetically pleasing Instagram feeds – nostalgically embracing the early days when people proudly took a picture of their homemade breakfast, slapped a sepia filter and called it a day. Now with the pressure to engage in casual Instagram comes a certain level of theatrical performance. You don’t just have to try to look good anymore – find the perfect pose and background. It’s about capturing that perfect, off-the-cuff false image or an aesthetically pleasing assortment of trash strewn across Mass Ave. It is an organized and unorganized look.
No app rejects this plastic notion more than BeReal, a new social media app developed in France by Alexis Barreyat in 2020 and now sweeping college campuses across the United States. The mission is evident in their digital campaign, boldly asking, “What if social media could be different?”
The concept of the application is simple and, in the words of the developers, “uncontrollable”. A notification is sent to all users at a random time each day, prompting them to take a photo of themselves and their surroundings within the next two minutes and upload it to the app. The time limit associated with the sporadic timing of the notification forces users to, literally, be real. Because you don’t have time to find the perfect pose or background, the content you engage with on the app is delightfully mundane yet extraordinarily authentic and creative.
BeReal is different from all other popular social media apps today. There are no filters, likes or followers: just close friends who have to ask to follow you and the ability to comment and leave “RealMoji” reaction images under your friends’ posts. The app also recently added a feature to turn your friends’ RealMojis into widgets to keep on your home screen.
The goal of the app is not to amass thousands of followers or have massive influence. In fact, their description on the iTunes App Store warns potential users, “if you want to become an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.” Indeed, BeReal is a uniquely intimate social media experience that fosters true authenticity. While some people may be hesitant to share their lack of sleep and angst with thousands of vague acquaintances on Instagram, it’s much easier to share with your closest friends on BeReal.
Even if it’s after the allotted two minutes, you can’t see other people’s posts unless you upload your own, making searching virtually impossible. You have to be real to see real. Plus, since everyone posts once a day at the same time, you can’t really get caught up in mindlessly scrolling for hours.
After gaining immense popularity among French college students, BeReal is now taking American college campuses by storm – and Harvard is no exception. On Friday, February 4, the app sponsored a party at Tasty Burger’s infamous basement and offered free entry to attendees who downloaded the app and added five friends. Be on the lookout for people stopping by BeReal in d-lobbies, at a meeting, or while shopping online at a conference.
Perhaps photodumping a collection of artificial flippancy isn’t the answer to achieving authenticity online. Bridging the glamor of social media and the mundane truth of real life, BeReal accomplishes what casual Instagrammers set out to do. Be real, any time of the day, even if it’s only for two minutes.
But this time please nobody tell Joe Biden.