Be Honest: Are You Being Real?

The latest social media phenomenon promotes authenticity but is plagued by the same issues as its predecessors


The phone next to me buzzes. A notification pops up: “Time to BeReal.” The alert is sandwiched between two warning sign emojis, giving off an aura of urgency and intimidation. My friend sitting next to me on my couch glances at her phone screen then goes back to the book she was reading. 

It’s not until two hours later, when we’re in Central Park with several other friends, that she pulls out her phone and makes everyone get into her BeReal shot. Having been reminded of the daily task, two other people with the BeReal app follow suit, asking us to pose while they snap a quick picture.

 If you haven’t heard of it already, BeReal is a new social media app that encourages people to, well, be real. The app challenges users to post content that is “authentic” by providing a two-minute window to post a front and back view of whatever they are doing when the notification goes off. 

It may sound strict, but there’s an easy loophole — you are allowed to post later. The only punishment is you get a sticker of shame that says “late,” but no one really seems to care. 

As a concept, the app is refreshing, because if we’re being honest with ourselves, most of us have been victimized by social media at least once. We’ve compared ourselves to picture-perfect Instagram models, been bombarded with unrealistic body standards, been censored by TikTok when talking about any number of serious topics — the list goes on. 

BeReal has some real fans. Some users claim that it’s their new favorite social media app, while others find it comforting that the app reminds them they’re not the only ones watching Netflix in bed with greasy hair, acne and glasses that haven’t been cleaned in days. But with the rise of social media trends that ironically critique social media, I have to wonder why we’ve become so intent on creating anti-social media social media.  

The movement to make Instagram casual has been around for a while, and now with the rise of BeReal, it’s clear that frustration with social media is reaching an all-time high.

Take the movement to make Instagram casual again, which encourages people to post less filtered photos on Instagram. Forget personal Instagram pages that are just selfies after selfies: Gen Z’s use of Instagram has new unspoken rules:

1.    All Instagram posts must be a photo dump, a collection of photos that you’ve taken in the past 7-30 days.

2.    Within this photo dump, limit the amount of solo pics you post. You can’t have people thinking you’re trying to show off how good you look in that vintage dress. Narcissism? That’s so millennial.

3.    If you must include a food picture, it must be zoomed in. The food can’t be in perfect condition, take at least one bite before you take the photo. Ideally, it’s a picture of grease on an empty plate after you’ve finished your meal.

4.    Include a funny, off-beat meme at the end of the carousel. 

The movement to make Instagram casual has been around for a while, and now with the rise of BeReal, it’s clear that frustration with social media is reaching an all-time high. But will more social media, apps and ways to post save us from social media burnout? 

Plenty of people wait to post their BeReal photos until they’re out with friends, use multiple attempts to get a good shot, and even screenshot their own BeReal to post it in an Instagram photo dump (talk about meta!). It’s clear that the app’s good intentions have not been that successful. BeReal users are still stressing about creating a good post, carrying the traumas of their past relationship with Instagram into this new app, while still going back to Instagram for the occasional hookup. 

Instead of coming up with new ways to make social media less toxic, it’s time to admit that no such thing exists. Social media is always going to be bad for our mental health. A new app isn’t going to save you, but less screen time will.