On Friday, October 28th, Derek Mills walked into his Children’s Literature class a minute late, but he was not in trouble with his professor. “Don’t worry, you’re not late. It’s BeReal time,” she reassured him as multiple students pulled out their phones to take a picture. BeReal, a French social media app that came out in 2020, has been steadily gaining popularity with students across college campuses in 2022. On the app’s official website, the platform is described as “a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.” BeReal attempts to accomplish this goal by prompting users once a day to take a photo and share it with their friends. Students at Dakota State University are adopting this app along with the wave of new users across the United States. Why are they using BeReal?
The way that BeReal works is simple: all users get a notification at the same time, and they have a two-minute window in which to take a back-and-front photo that shows themselves and whatever is in front of them. This notification is sent once every day, and it can happen at any time. This surprise factor appeals to some students. “It’s like a game,” says Jakob Kaiser, a senior majoring in cyber operations. Other students are less than thrilled by it. Jessica Leighton, an elementary education major, predicted that BeReal will be a short-lasting fad, because “people are going to get sick of that timer.”
One certain thing is that BeReal stands out from other social media apps. “I personally like it better than other things,” Leighton said. Casey Te Grotenhuis, a junior majoring in Artificial Intelligence, compared the app to Snapchat when he first heard of it. “I just thought this app was stupid. Just like, well I mean it’s basically just another way to do streaks, and I already don’t like streaks. So yeah, I just ignored it and denied it for like a long, long time.”
However, once he gave in and decided to give BeReal a try, he realized there was a difference. “The difference is with streaks there’s always the ‘if I miss it then the streak goes away,’ you know, and then you start to do that more just because you don’t want to lose that arbitrary number. But with BeReal it feels like there’s a lot less pressure, I can miss the daily uploads.”
The intent of the app to provide authenticity in social media is up for debate. Leighton was not sure that she found it more authentic than her Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook accounts. “It’s like a trend,” she said. On the other hand, Te Grotenhuis shared that his personal Instagram and Snapchat accounts feel fairly authentic. “I don’t really have the Instagram where (…) it feels like everyone else’s is that fake, and the people that are fake I just don’t really care about anymore (…). For the most part, the people that I communicate with on those don’t really wait for the golden opportunity to be able to respond to a text.” However, he acknowledged that for other people, the app provides a new perspective. “From what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen and what I’ve lived through…it’s a lot more authentic than, you know, social media can be. It’s pretty hard to really fake it.”
Students at Dakota State University have different opinions on whether the app is going to stick around, or die out after a short-lived streak of popularity. Leighton does not think so, although she enjoys keeping up with her sister’s life through the app. Kaiser shrugged off the fact that there are some glitches in the platform. “It’s new. I think people will continue to use it.” Either way, BeReal is a small step towards authenticity in social media. “It’s a little bit of a confidence booster that I’m not just wasting time, like in my life,” Te Grotenhuis says.
When: got it on September 28th.
Why: Uses it to keep in touch with her sister, “she lives in Arizona.”
Do you use other social media? “Yeah, snapchat, Instagram, Facebook.”
Is/how is BeReal different? “I think it is different, it’s just like one thing I don’t like about BeReal is how it times you, and then like you get this notification that’s like oh you’re late and I’m like oh crap. But no I like it, I personally like it better than other things honestly.”
Is it more authentic? “I think it’s just sort of like a thing, I don’t know, it’s like a trend.”
Will it stick around? “I honestly think it’s going to go out. I think it’s going to die because I think people are going to get sick of that timer and be like ‘yeah I’m done.’”
When/why: It was the new thing and he wanted to see how awful it was
Is/how is it different: Yes, because you’re all prompted at the same time, waiting for the notification. “It’s kind of like a game.”Different than Snapchat because with Snaps nobody is really paying attention while they take their photos, this one you’re more conscious of it because it’s on a timer and just once a day. More fun.
Will it stick around? Thinks it will stay and be “the new thing.” Although there are bugs, “well, it’s new. I think people will keep using it.”
When/why? So I think about a year ago or something, right when anyone has ever heard of it, my entire family jumped onto it, including my mom, and I just thought this app was stupid. Just like, well I mean it’s basically just another way to do streaks, and I already don’t like streaks. So yeah, I just ignored it and denied it for like a long, long time. So yeah, I just continued to deny that it’s a good app, or you know just ignored it, until I wanna say like a month ago or so. And I don’t know what changed my mind this time compared to all the other times, maybe it just finally got to the point where I’ve heard so much about it I just wanted to try it out. So I decided to download it and since then I think I’ve missed one or two days, it’s pretty easy, so yeah that’s my history with it.”
Do you use other social media? “Other social medias I use is Instagram and snapchat and then I also have facebook and twitter that I look at like once a month.”
Is/how is BeReal different? “I kind of already brought up the point of how it kind of seems like streaks. It’s still, I think is a good example of what it is like. The difference is with streaks there’s always the ‘if I miss it then the streak goes away,’ you know, and then you start to do that more just because you don’t lose that arbitrary number. But with BeReal it feels like there’s a lot less pressure, I can miss the daily uploads. Other than that BeReal is just a lot simpler, it’s just like take a picture and there’s nothing saying that I have to look at anyone else’s BeReal or anything like that. I do think that I wouldn’t be able to handle it if I didn’t get over my posting anxiety that I had like a year ago, just because it’s a lot, putting yourself out there and stuff.”
For yourself (memories) or for family/friends? It’s not just something that I use just so I can post my own pictures, which there’s plenty of places I can do that, I can post anywhere if I wanted to have something to look back to. But I really like BeReal because it helps me see what my old high school friends or my family or maybe my current friends, what’s going on in their life or different things like that. But the nature of BeReal generally it’s pretty boring, with ‘oh they’re doing nothing, and I’m doing nothing,’ it’s a little bit of a confidence booster that I’m not just wasting time, like in my life. And as far as using Bereal for a personal photo book type of thing, that was one of the biggest concerns I had, honestly still one of the biggest concerns I have. Because in my experience, whenever I have those like, photo book of memories or whatever you want to call it, id end up going back to those pictures and kind of comparing myself, like what I am now, with what I was like a week ago. And if I’m doing better now, it’s like it’s not I don’t feel good about myself, it’s just like oh okay, I feel the same way. But if I feel worse, there’s like a big self-confidence problem. It creates this comparison of where I am currently with where I used to be. And that almost never turns out good for me. And so one thing that I’ve been doing is to actually not look at my old pictures.”
Is it more authentic? I don’t want to say yes. I don’t really have the type of feed on Instagram that, you know, it just feels like everyone is posting a bunch of fake things. I don’t really have the Instagram where I, where it feels like everyone else’s is that fake, and the people that are fake I just don’t really care about anymore. And via messages or you know, like, snapchat, then I would say that’s just as authentic if not more authentic because for the most part the people that I communicate with on those don’t really wait for the golden opportunity to be able to respond to a text. So I really wouldn’t say that it is that much more authentic than what I’m used to. But from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen and what I’ve lived through, there is, I mean, it’s a lot more authentic than, you know, social media can be. It’s pretty hard to really fake it.
Will it stick around? Kind of going back to what I was saying with my history of it, my whole family and even a bunch of my friends have had this app for a very long time. They were the people that I originally heard about it and they still use it every day, they still post on it every single day, so I really do think that it will stay around. Of course I can be wrong, because I can’t read the future or anything.