Roll up! Roll up! The code has been cracked. The loophole has been found. The days of curation, performance and perfection are over — BeReal is here to save the day! Filters, face-tunes and forced smiles have been replaced with warped selfies of bed ridden teens sharing amongst one another the mundane side of life — ah the sweet smell of reality. For what could be more authentic than checking our phones to ensure that, just like us, our friends are also boring and lonely?
Now, I must confess, I didn’t set out to be a sceptic. In fact, throughout the summer, once we had all scattered further than St Andrews’ three streets, there was fleeting pleasure in the knowledge that, once that notification flashed, I could see what my friends were up to — without having to actually reach out and, god forbid, initiate a conversion. But therein lies the very problem. The proof that BeReal is no better than Instagram or Facebook, and that it, too, strengthens the bond between us and our phones, enabling the growth of our toxic dependency on social media.
I think what saddens me most about how quickly BeReal has taken off is that the concept of the app relies on the assumption that we are on our phones 24/7. The presumption that we will come running like dogs to a whistle at the sound of those unnecessarily cheerful sounding chimes. Not to mention I surely can’t be the only one who feels threatened by the two minute countdown that greets you as you go to take your photo. Why are we suddenly thrusted into this race of who can BeReal the best? Branded with the exact time of the post, and just how late it was uploaded, BeReal offers no less competition than the likes underneath Instagram posts.
I think BeReal is evidence of our struggle to balance having an online presence whilst also still being present. The gap in the market which this app fills is literally Reality. Its niche selling point is that it isn’t like an Instagram feed which has become an edited highlight reel, but is instead there to capture the raw moments. The messy hair, sudocrem on face, lying in bed moments. Are we in such desperate need of validation and attention that we need to feel seen even in private? It scares me that the camera on our phone has moulded into a makeshift human pupil. We feel seen without the need for eye contact, and we feel appreciated and understood without even having to talk. It seems to me as though BeReal is just one more step in the direction of creating a dystopian reality whereby the physical community is replaced by technological virtuality.
Now, maybe you’re thinking I sound like your crazed neighbour Duncan, 92 years old and still raving about the ‘good old days’ before the robots took over, but I think I would agree with him. Although I concede that there are certainly many advantages of social media, being able to keep in touch with loved ones far away for one, I implore our generation witnessing the rise of apps such as BeReal to take a step back and wonder if it has gone too far?
Let's say you’re down on East Sands having a bonfire with friends when the notification chimes. Instead of reaching for your phone, waiting for 4G to kick in and for the app to stop glitching, lift your head and appreciate the warmth of the fire against the Scottish wind. Notice your friends' smiles and how they look at 21. Pay attention to their crazy stories — ones which maybe (if you are actually present) you can retell to your kids, shaking your head and laughing at the memory. If we become so focused on capturing these moments digitally, it will be our futures that suffer. Technology moves on so fast that I can almost guarantee you that BeReal won’t exist to show your future family these moments which, if you simply put down your phone, you would be able to recall yourself. Personally, I would much rather be like Duncan, shouting about the glory days than struggling to share anything personal because I relied on my phone, rather than my brain, to hold my most treasured memories. And, if you aren’t doing anything worthwhile when that notification chimes, why bother? There’s a reason no one was sharing pictures of watching TV, playing video games or just lying in bed on TikTok before and it's because no one cares — and that’s okay! Live your silly little life without searching for constant validation, you’re worthy regardless.
Illustration: Olivia Little