The BeReal addiction is real


Sofia Kim, Staff Writer

Step aside Snapchat, a new social media app is in town: BeReal has become Gen Z’s latest obsession. 

Two years after its release in 2020, BeReal’s popularity skyrocketed in mid-2022 with over 28 million downloads worldwide and at least 10 million active daily users, according to Online Optimism.

Encouraging people to be more “real” on social media, BeReal randomly sends a notification once a day to all users: “Time to Be Real,” punctuated by exclamation points on either side. Users must take a double-sided photo of what they are doing in under two minutes, then share the shot with their friends. The app does not allow edits or filters on the photo, though people can retake it within the two minutes, or post later in the day if they miss the time slot. 

Many BeReal users originally learned about the app through friends. Miller Harris (12) saw other people using BeReal before he decided to download it for fun, he said. “I had heard about it for a little while and thought, ‘why not? There’s no harm.’” Harris documented his summer using BeReal at his internship or just in his room. He also used the app to keep up with his friends’ activities. 

JoJo Mignone (11) said an app that prioritizes being authentic is more compelling to users because social media is often fake. “The purpose of BeReal is to deconstruct the toxic nature of social media and see what people are doing when they are not online.” To capture the essence of the app’s name, it is important for users to post the unfiltered version of themselves, she said. Mignone often takes her BeReals wherever she is at the moment: in her car, room, or at Yankees games, she said. 

Emily Grant (11) also heard about the app through friends, but has not downloaded it. BeReal does not encourage true authenticity as users can retake their photos or wait until they are doing something worth posting, she said. To attain a truly unfiltered online persona, these features should be removed, she said.

BeReal has varying levels of authenticity, Hannah Bodner (10), who uses the app, said. “Some people post as soon as the notification comes out while others wait until a specific time, which goes against the purpose of the app.”

 While BeReal is supposed to portray what users are doing at any moment, these features allow users to make their lives appear different than they really are, Daniel Pustilnik (11), who does not use the app, said. Like Grant, he thinks the retake feature detracts from the “realness” of the app. “It’s more authentic than other forms of social media, but the app’s name should only be taken with a grain of salt,” he said.

However, unlike Instagram, BeReal has no likes or followers, decreasing the pressure to take filtered photos, Bodner said. “I find it fun doing the BeReals and seeing what my friends are doing, if they are hanging out together or at an interesting place. I am usually excited when I see the notification, especially if I am with my friends.”

Although Pustilnik does not use BeReal, he acknowledges the uniqueness of the app, especially the well-known notification feature that makes it stand out, he said. “It’s a different way of interacting on social media because all users are posting once a day,” he said. “It’s a cool concept that everyone shows what they are doing at the same time, which sets it apart from other social media.”

At school, students take their BeReals between classes, in the halls, or during their sports team practices, Kayla Choi (11) said. Choi has posted many BeReals on the soccer field with her teammates after practice. 

For Mignone, a memorable BeReal moment was taking a photo with her teammates and coaches after the Girls Varsity Field Hockey win against Brearley, she said. “With the front and back camera feature, we were able to show everyone who played in the game.”

Although viral memes show what fictional characters might post on BeReal, like Rory from “Gilmore Girls” or Bella from “Twilight,” many photos just show users in their room or doing work, Harris said. “BeReal almost shows the monotony of everyday life,” he said. 

When the notification is later at night, most photos are of students doing their homework, Choi said. 

As schoolwork picks up and life becomes busier, Grant thinks BeReal’s popularity will decline, she said. “The app would be more interesting in the summer, where there is more spontaneity in activities.” 

Audrey Goldberg (11), who uses the app, agrees that the app’s popularity will die down as school begins as the app will become repetitive with little to no variation, she said. “While its objective is different from Instagram, there are more forms of entertainment like stories, reels, and shopping that make Instagram’s popularity sustainable in the long run.”