Some Users Wonder about The Authenticity of BeReal

by Gabi Admi ‘23

The social media app BeReal was released in 2020 and rapidly rose from 921,000 active users in July 2021 to 21.3 million users a year later, becoming the most downloaded free app. BeReal is designed to promote authenticity that other social media outlets lack. To implement this, at a random time of day, all BeReal users are given approximately two minutes to take an unfiltered selfie. Given that users don’t know what time the BeReal is set to go off, it does not give them time to look their most perfect or choose what they are doing at that particular moment. However, some users of the app, including Sherwood students, are expressing skepticism of just how authentic and “real” the posts are.

A Warrior survey of more than 200 students found that 43 percent of students are BeReal users. Their responses indicated that part of the appeal is to see what others are doing at the same time. “I like BeReal because it gives all of us a chance for everyone to show what they’re doing at that exact moment, it’s fun to see what someone’s doing at the same time as you,” said sophomore George Awkard.

The app takes a photo using the phone’s front and back camera, showing the person’s environment at the time of the BeReal. Users are still given the opportunity to take a selfie after the given two minutes; however, BeReal has built-in “shaming” in doing so by showing other users how late a person posts and doesn’t allow them to see others’ posts until it is complete. BeReal friends also can view how many times a user retook their selfie. Once the next day’s BeReal pops up on a user’s feed, the picture from the previous day disappears. Since the advent of BeReal, other popular social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram have introduced features inspired by BeReal. For instance, TikTok’s feature “Now” is a direct imitation of BeReal, displaying how influential BeReal has become across different social media platforms.

While the app is designed to cut out inauthenticity on social media, people are finding loopholes. “I like that people can see what I am actually doing, but it has become like every other social media where people can fix themselves before posting,” stated senior Grace Roberts on the survey. BeReal seems to show that when given the chance to be authentic, many people will still choose to portray a false version of themselves online. For as long as social media has existed, people have portrayed versions of themselves that aren’t rooted in authenticity. Particularly over the past few years, the detrimental effects of social media have been brought to light through extensive research, bringing bad press to social media companies.

As a result, the tech world has tried to come up with a new solution: let’s be authentic. “[These apps] are a market response to a failed need, which is the need for an authentic connection,” explained Professor Arun Lakshmanan at the University at Buffalo School of Management in a Fortune article. However, technology is only a vehicle to display what people ultimately are willing to display about themselves. If the BeReal app remains true to its initial goals, success will require its users to show their vulnerabilities and mundane aspects of their lives.