BeReal/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Three months on BeReal: does it live up to expectations?

I resist fads like the plague. Jumping on a bandwagon is too much for my entitled sanctimony, and so, I much prefer to spend the first six to 12 months of any new trend ribbing the gullible participants. Pokemon Go, loom bands, Wordle: the peak of their popularity had to pass me by before I would even give them a look. But there is one recent rage which I could no longer resist.

BeReal: the concept is simple. One photo every day at an unexpected time encapsulating whatever random action you might be undertaking. The purists can aim to keep to the strict two-minute time window for photos, the rest can hope to vaguely follow suit afterwards. But for those amongst us who are terrible at taking photos, particularly of ourselves and even more so of ourselves and others, it is an arresting proposition. A socially conditioned form of photo-taking made all the less vain and self-indulgent by the fact everyone is doing it at the same time. It was time to give it a go. And thus, it became my only tangible New Year’s resolution for 2024.

It still feels a lot more authentic than Instagram and the idolatry of perfection it promotes

Now of course this comes with caveats. Unless you are one of the disciplined few to post on time every single day, there is a degree of choreography to choosing the right moment. However honest the process purports to be, it can be manipulated at will. Sometimes I will save a BeReal until later in the day when something is happening that I know will make for an interesting recollection. Other times, I will wait just that extra few minutes until I have showered and made myself look semi-presentable.

Given you can keep BeReal to a close circle of friends and acquaintances, there is a sense in which you are much less bothered about this side of things. It still feels a lot more authentic than Instagram and the idolatry of perfection it promotes. If an image is going to pop up for a window of 24 hours to then only disappear to your own personal archives, the stakes of making a good impression are minimal. And sometimes, we want to reminisce about the mundane as much as the spectacular. What did those slow days look like at a particular stage of life? When were those weeks where it felt like nothing was happening, where life wasn’t moving forward, or we were stuck in ruts?

Social media increasingly feels more vice than virtue and threatens so much of the sanctity of our society

Impressively for my three months in the game, I have only missed two days. Both of which would have probably made good content, but I was simply too busy to find the right time to chronicle it. And I guess this problem still remains. Sometimes, we forget to take photos because we are simply too much in the moment, and that is hardly a bad thing. And if anything, the conspicuous gaps are a reminder that something interesting must have been happening that day at least.

Has BeReal achieved the purpose I had hoped? On the whole, yes. My photos serve as a reminder of all the very solid and more questionable meals I have made, my remarkable proficiency at cooking porridge, and the telly I have enjoyed and not enjoyed. Most of them are indoors (a sign I definitely need to get back into the swing of regular and routine-based exercise) and about 5% of them show my hair looking alright (reminder: need a haircut). And more than anything, most of them prove that I pull exactly the same face for all photos. I also have to admit that I do enjoy seeing what friends are getting up to and noseying into their lives.

Like most social media apps, the purity of BeReal’s concept has increasingly come into question. Some changes have been more welcomed, like a ‘Behind the Scenes’ (BTS) feature which allows users to see more of their friend’s captured moments. Others, such as creating feeds of official accounts which allow us to see inside the lives of celebrities, feel more like attempts to pander to other audiences. However, the interest the app has sustained cannot be undermined. In a world where social media increasingly feels more vice than virtue and threatens so much of the sanctity of our society, BeReal is a breath of fresh air. Long may it continue.


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