Are BeReal users being real?

BeReal app icon

Nicole Hasek

BeReal app icon

It’s a cool autumn day in October and families are out and about taking in the nice weather. All of a sudden, multiple people have stopped in their tracks and are posing for a photo. It’s BeReal time.

BeReal is a social media app designed to show your friends and family what you are doing at a specific time in the day. Each day, the notification is sent out at a different time, so users never know when it will pop up. It could be 9 a.m., or it could be 11 p.m.

The app uses the front and back cameras to take photos that show your surroundings as well as the user’s face. When the notification is sent out, users have two minutes to post what they are doing. The goal is to post within two minutes, but oftentimes people post minutes or hours late.

BeReal gained high levels of traction in the last few months despite being run by a team of fewer than 30 employees. In March 2021, there were about 10,000 daily users, according to the BeReal website. Now it is more than 10 million.

Alejandra Marquez, a junior in biology, first posted on BeReal June 30.

“I have quite a few BeReals of my computer screen or of me just laying in bed,” Marquez said. “I do try to post on time every time so you get my real surroundings, but I don’t think it’s real in that sometimes I’m posing with a smile or upwards angle so my double chin doesn’t show.”

Marquez waited about 20 minutes to take her BeReal one day when she attended a rock concert. The notification went off when she was there.

“I just waited a bit to get a picture of the main band instead of the openers, so I was only like 18 minutes late,” Marquez said.

Seth Larson, a junior in chemistry, downloaded BeReal in May 2022.

“Sometimes, I’ll take the front camera photos at weird angles to make it more fun even though I’m just sitting on my couch for the fifth day in a row that I’ve gotten it,” Larson said.

Larson believes waiting hours to post something fun or with friends, rather than doing it on time, defeats the purpose of the app.

Alex Gerber, a junior in architecture, downloaded the app in March 2022 and posts every day.

“If all of my friends are posting late, I think the app starts to lose some value and becomes no different than something like Snapchat streaks,” Gerber said. “If I ran the world, I wouldn’t let people post BeReals after the daily two minute timer. Maybe make it a five minute timer, but if you’re posting late, are you really being real?”

A regular post on BeReal is just for a user’s friends, but there is also an option to post on the discovery page. The discovery page is where you can see random people’s posts even when you are not friends on the app.

“BeReal is a way to give the world a snippet of insight into your life, and you can make that snippet as private or public as you want, which is what makes the app great,” Gerber said.

Marquez shared her concern of privacy about the app.

“If BeReal were to get more specific in its location range, then this would make for a scary market for creeps online who can figure out where someone is just by looking at the surroundings in the BeReal,” Marquez said.

Privacy is an issue with all social media, but if used with care, it can be a fun place to check in on your friends.

“It seemed like a lame cliché at first: a social media that is authentic,” Larson said. “But, I think it’s become a fun game for my friends and I that makes us have a little more fun and stay a little more connected.”