No influencers, no filters – BeReal shows the beauty of the lives we actually lead | Jess CartnerMorley
I’ve been on BeReal since March – this year’s most groovy social platform, see and be seen. Six months later, I learned that my life is much more boring than I had imagined.
BeReal is a photo sharing application in which once a day, at a random time, each user receives a notification to post a photo of their surroundings within two minutes. You don’t have to wait for the fun part of your day or find a flattering photo on your camera roll. My BeReals are almost invariably my computer screen, my dog, or my fridge. Even being on vacation doesn’t always help: Lawn Law requires the app’s distinctive ping to come while you’re buying sunscreen or at the rental car desk, not on the beach.
I’m struck every day by not only how needlessly mortified I am by my own banality – when the ping came while I was on the bus home from a fancy restaurant, I found myself bristling at the injustice of the moment, which is obviously ridiculous – but how compelling the banality turns out to be.
On BeReal, you can only see everyone else’s photos once you’ve posted yours. So if you want to scroll through photos of your friends – the view out the window of 6.04 of Charing Cross, the kind of family dinner with no table decor, with paper towels for napkins and phones on the table – you must share yours first. There’s an encouraging camaraderie in the process: I trust you with my life, warts and all, and you show me yours.
Each BeReal post is actually two photos, not one, because the reverse camera takes a picture of you while you photograph your surroundings. Even if you look presentable, most of the time the aforementioned law dictates that you’ll be captured in your dressing gown or sweaty in your gym gear. Oh, and there are no filters.
But that’s not the worst. The angle needed to take a consistent shot of what’s in front of you results in horribly unflattering selfies. If you adjust the angle of your phone to take a nice selfie, everyone will be able to tell because the other photo will be of the ceiling. So even after six months of practice, I count less than three chins as a good day.
But it turns out it’s OK. Because what BeReal reminds me of, as I scroll through selfies of my friends, sleepy eyes in the morning or disheveled hair coming home from work, of their kids strapped into car seats and their awkwardly made beds and from their window withered by the heat wave cans is that beauty is not synonymous with perfection. Instagram has trained us to yearn for a bright, idealized fantasy of life; BeReal, on the other hand, shows us that beauty exists everywhere: in the joy of everyday life, in the bones of the people we love, whether or not they have mascara.
BeReal does not have any influencers. Instead, the app scans your contacts, prompting you to “friend” people whose details are already in your phone, i.e. people you know in real life. Unlike an Instagram follow, a BeReal friend is a two-way exchange, reminiscent of the old days of the internet, when it came to connective tissue for friends and family, before social media was cannibalized by marketing algorithms. . That BeReal only took off this year – two years after its launch – seems correlated to changes in the Instagram algorithm. My Instagram feed was once my family, friends, and colleagues; now it’s mostly mindless mini-videos in which anonymous influencers show me how to do incredibly obvious things. The algorithms don’t lie, so it’s clear there’s a voracious market for short reels of maniacally smiling people pointing at words at the screen while demonstrating how to make a sandwich or brush their hair, but it doesn’t work. for me.
As with Wordle, part of the appeal of BeReal is that it’s a short daily ritual rather than a voracious black hole gobbling up hours of free time. Wordle would never have been so addictive if you could have done more than one puzzle a day. Likewise, by allowing a single photo to be shared, BeReal never overstays its welcome. It creates a daily ritual, a gentle heartbeat in the background of real life. The sound of his alert, promising a broadcast of esoteric updates from friends and family around the world, is the modern equivalent of what the thud of the morning mail on the carpet sounded like, back in the day. where the courier arrived every morning and brought letters. and postcards rather than simple invoices.
Authenticity seems like a tarnished word these days, belittled by strategists and marketers. But it still matters. The success of BeReal – the most downloaded free app in the UK, US and Australia in August – speaks to a desire for life online that is about connection rather than making. The fact that BeReal’s demographic is young – I was introduced to it by my teenage children and saw younger colleagues and friends, in their 20s and now 30s, swell the ranks – suggests how the wind blows. So are reports that Meta is testing a feature called Candid Challenges for Instagram Stories: a notification to capture and share a photo within a daily two-minute time limit. Six months later, BeReal has shown me that life is, for the most part, decidedly unglamorous. And that I wouldn’t want it any other way.