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Is BeReal really that real?

In 2020, the social media app BeReal was launched. Although the uptake was fairly slow, by mid-2022 it had become a hit. 

The app, which describes itself as “a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life,” notifies users once per day that it’s “time to BeReal.” Everyone gets the notification at the same time — given a two-minute window to capture a “BeReal” photo of their surroundings at that given moment. The app captures a photo from both the front and back cameras of the user’s device. 

Though only two minutes are given to post a BeReal on time, people are able to take a “late” BeReal until the next notification the next day. For example, if on Monday BeReal goes off at 10 a.m. and on Tuesday it goes off at 11 p.m., users would have almost 35 hours to take their Monday BeReal. If taken after the two minutes are up, BeReals are stamped (shamefully) as “x hours late” on the app

What people like about BeReal

Maya Lawson is a second-year Dalhousie University engineering student. Lawson likes that BeReal, unlike other social media platforms, doesn’t pressure users to chase followers. 

“It’s more genuine, not filtered,” says Lawson. “There’s little to no judgment, unlike other social media. I would never post most of [what I post on BeReal] on Instagram.” 

Second-year environmental science major Sophie Glover agrees, noting she likes that the app forces you to post au naturel — on other social media apps, she finds that peers can be too picky about what they post. She describes it as a glimpse into her friends’ lives. 

Multiple students agree it’s a good way to see what friends are up to, especially those who don’t live close. 

Though BeReal photos are only viewable until the next notification goes off, users are able to see all of their own past posts with their account. Some of the students said this feature has caused it to become a sort of picture diary, which they like. 

Second-year health promotion student Laura Colford says she likes that people can’t edit their photos on BeReal. Also, she doesn’t have nearly as many friends on the app as she does on others, which makes it feel more casual. 

“It reassures me that it’s okay to not always be doing things,” she notes. “I like that it reminds me that other people also spend time alone in bed, like me.”

How “real” is BeReal? It may not have the filters of Instagram or production features of TikTok, but there are ways around the app’s intended authenticity. (Toni Kleiner)

The disagreement over late BeReals

The way users are able to save BeReals and post late is controversial. 

Some people perceive BeReal as a skewed representation of who their friends really are, as users often delay posts until they are doing something fun, cool or interesting. This creates a distorted perception of others’ lives, only showing the good parts — similar to other social media apps. 

“It takes away from the whole point of the app,” agrees Glover, who is a strong believer in posting as soon as you see the notification. “When people are hours late, it’s like, just post on your Snapchat story.” 

“You can be so fake on BeReal,” says Colford. 

Second-year nursing student Katie Duggan disagrees. She’s a late poster, but with a compelling reason. 

“If you save it for something that you’re doing that’s exciting later in the day, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. [It lets you] look back on [the exciting] parts of your day instead of looking at a million photos of your laptop.” 

Another second-year nursing student, Jaime Procter, also avoids judging others for posting late, acknowledging that everyone has busy lives and that sometimes she is not in the mood to post. Colford similarly describes the notification can sometimes feel like an inconvenience. 

“Sometimes the notification will come up and for some reason, I just physically don’t want to take it. I’m like, I don’t want people to know I exist right now.”

Breeding comparison

Because the notification goes off for everyone at the same time, it has the potential to create negative comparisons between users. Colford explains how sometimes when she posts herself doing nothing while others post something fun, it can make her feel like she is wasting her time. 

Glover, on the other hand, says she rarely compares her BeReals to others and that for her, it has the opposite effect. 

“You actually see how people, a lot of the time, are not doing anything interesting. When you go on BeReal, 80 percent of the people’s posts, if it’s the middle of the day, are just alone doing work or watching TV.”

Procter says sometimes she finds herself comparing her BeReals to others and sometimes she doesn’t. “Comparison is a tricky thing, and if I find myself comparing I just have to remind myself that there really is no point, because they’re living their life and I’m living mine.” 

Most students agreed that if used how it’s intended, BeReal is intimate, genuine and unfiltered, more so than other social media platforms. 

Procter says, “Most people don’t post eating cereal or gym selfies on their other social media, so it’s fun to see.”

COVER: Josh Withers

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