BeReal: the saviour of social media, or a dystopian nightmare?

I’m festering in mattress on a Sunday morning. Light is streaming in via my paper-thin blinds, there are small crystals of sleep within the corners of my eyes, and my tooth really feel furry as a result of I couldn’t be bothered to brush them once I bought in final evening. Then a notification pops up on my telephone informing me it’s time to take my BeReal.

Dutifully, I open the app and snap two photos with my telephone’s entrance and rear digital camera. I look horrendous and my room is a multitude, however I don’t care. I solely have just a few shut buddies on the app anyway. I wait just a few seconds to see their photographs, then they pop up: Lotti can also be in mattress, Hannah is cooking along with her boyfriend. Cool. The faint twinge of anticipation I felt whereas their posts have been importing dissipates into apathy, and I shut the app.

The premise behind BeReal is straightforward. The app sends out a notification at a random time in the course of the day, which provides customers a two-minute window to add a ‘BeReal’ – basically, two photographs taken concurrently in your telephone’s entrance and rear digital camera. BeReal markets itself because the antithesis of Instagram, the place curated, polished photographs promote unrealistic life, and faucets into younger individuals’s rising desire for uncooked, ‘anti-aesthetic’ content material (à la casual-posting and picture dumps). “Anti-aesthetics are about pushing back against perfectionism; striving for something supposedly more raw, real, and ‘unfiltered’ in alignment with a wider shift against the perceived artifice and inauthenticity of social media culture,” explains Olivia Yallop, creator of Break the Internet: In Pursuit of Influence.

Mayanne Soret, content material creator and the co-founder of Tabloid Art History, provides that she feels the app faucets into our deep attachment to pictures as a approach of capturing recollections, as your earlier BeReal uploads kind a sort of visible diary. “It feels increasingly difficult to make sense of time passing, which I think has been heightened by the pandemic,” she says. “I don’t think I realised how much of the way we make sense of time passing, to others and to ourselves, is through photographs. So taking any reason to take a picture or your life and sharing it on social media is also a way to witness your own time unfolding and your life happening.” 

My pal Hannah, who instructed me to get the app within the first place, says she enjoys BeReal due to its unfiltered, spontaneous high quality. She explains that it helps remind her that individuals aren’t doing thrilling issues on a regular basis, “because there are definitely some people who you think are always doing really fun things.” It’s actually true that the neverending ‘highlights reel’ of social media could make individuals bristle with FOMO, and on the floor BeReal has the potential to supply an antidote to this.

But in my expertise, BeReal has solely intensified my very own FOMO. If somebody posts a photograph of a practice station, I’ll persuade myself that they’re going someplace glamorous whereas I’m mendacity on my couch. If somebody uploads a shot of a pint, I’ll begin to really feel anxious that I’m not taking advantage of the good climate. Soret explains that in her view this shift in direction of casualised content material continues to be pushed by “a fantasy version of an offline life” that’s by some means extra ‘real’ and worthy.

“Mainly, I feel that we want to commemorate all the smaller ways in which we live our lives, to make sense of time passing outside of big events or societal milestones like graduation and weddings and jobs,” she says. “But I also do think there is a small element of competition, a way to show our peers that we live better offline lives than them, that we have understood a way of being they have not and this is why our lives, no matter how pixelated or blurry or casual our photos of it are, are better lived than theirs.”

“The growing presence of surveillance technology, the constant possibility of surveillance, has led us to being more performative in how we present ourselves and act in every aspect of our offline and online lives” – Mayanne Soret

BeReal has recognized an issue that, by now, is widespread data: social media could make you are feeling unhealthy. But it doesn’t pose an answer. Instead, it exacerbates the very downside it claims to be addressing, by encouraging us to each surveil others’ non-public moments and share increasingly of our personal lives. “Not to veer too much into the dystopian, but I do think that the growing presence of surveillance technology, the constant possibility of surveillance, has led us to being more performative in how we present ourselves and act in every aspect of our offline and online lives,” Soret says. “We are more prepared for the possibility of surveillance at any moment, and anticipate it in a lot of what we do.”

My pal Lotti agrees. “I feel like it’s a contradiction of itself a bit,” she provides. “Like, you’re sharing snapshots of your ‘real life’, but you must respond within two minutes.” It’s true: there have been a number of events the place I’ve been too busy ‘doing real life’ to identify the notification, and but in the event you select to add a BeReal previous the allotted time, the app shames you for being ‘late’, as if being late is much less ‘real’ than posting on time. As Yallop says, “technology that claims to help you spend less time with technology is always a curious and awkward proposition,” and it’s unimaginable to thoroughly ignore the truth that apps are primarily a way of money-making for Silicon Valley execs and are purposely designed to be addictive.

“BeReal’s premise feels inherently backwards-looking and quite 2016,” Yallop provides. For Hannah, that is a part of the enchantment: “it reminds me of what Snapchat used to be like, when you’d just send your friends dumb things,” she tells me. Hannah actually isn’t alone in having fun with the app – every day downloads of the app have grown by 315 per cent since January – but whereas the novelty of nostalgia could also be thrilling proper now, will BeReal be capable to maintain its progress?

Yallop is uncertain, and factors to Gen Z experimenting with digital identification in far more thrilling methods. “[They’re] creating immersive virtual worlds on Minecraft, customising in-game skins, and exploring virtual avatars and VTubing. For me, this kind of blended or enhanced reality is where the real innovations in social media identity are taking place,” she says. “Though [BeReal] may be a successful mechanic, it doesn’t feel sustainable long term or in line with where digital culture is moving.” Even Hannah concedes that she’s going to “probably get bored of it soon.”

Equally, although, for now it seems to be like BeReal is about to continue to grow. Even I can’t assist however attain for my telephone every time I see the every day notification pop up. How lengthy till I can now not be bothered? Only time will inform.

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