BeReal Challenges Norms: Are Students BeingReal?

October 25, 2022

In the early months of 2022, the BeReal app exploded in popularity. BeReal strives to shift social media in a more casual direction by encouraging its users to post photos on a daily basis, whenever a random notification goes off. However, many similar social media platforms have circulated throughout Menlo before, such as Poparazzi and quickly fizzled out. Still, even in October 2022, approximately eight months after the app’s popularity first surged, BeReal has yet to suffer the same fate. Many teenagers continue to post on BeReal everyday. According to Online Optimism, in July 2022, the app hit a milestone of over 10 million daily active users, preserving the app’s relevance. Some believe BeReal belongs permanently in the Menlo community, while others perceive the app as an ultimately fading trend.

Originally published in The Coat of Arms Edition 49.1: Are Students BeingReal? Staff Illustration: Michele Hratko

BeReal releases a notification at a random time once a day, beginning a two-minute timer for users to post what they are currently doing. Posts consist of two photos — one taken from the selfie camera, and one taken from the front camera — and are able to be viewed by friends on the app, just like an Instagram feed. The photos are taken directly on a camera in the app, not allowing for filters or photo editing to take place.

Although BeReal posts are intended to be taken when the original two-minute notification is released, some people instead wait to photograph the best part of their day hours later; such staged posts strip BeReal of its acclaimed title. The only penalty for a late post is a notification, which displays to people how many hours “late” the photo is considered.

According to freshman Libby Vitro, BeReal feels much more permanent as a popular app compared to Poparazzi. “BeReal is doing a good job of lasting because it gives you a notification to post every single day,” Vitro said. “[The app] is constant, which is why I think it will last a significant amount of time.”

Senior Annika Porteous agrees that BeReal has successfully stayed current, and she posts on the app almost daily. Porteous credits BeReal’s success to its unique and sporadic culture. “BeReal is very unpolished,” Porteous said. “Some parts of the app can be pretty funny, and it’s nice that posts are at any given moment of the day.”

Unlike Porteous, Vitro does not feel that BeReal has maintained a casual posting environment, since lots of her friends instead plan their photos ahead of time, to purposefully showcase the most interesting parts of their days. “People don’t necessarily do their BeReals on time,” Vitro said. “BeReal isn’t very real, so it doesn’t change anything.” Vitro and freshman Halle Blanchard both try to upload their BeReals within the original two-minute window each day, but they admit it is easy to save the post for later, especially when a fun event can be captured, such as a concert or dinner with friends.

Sophomore Tyler Fernandez added that he prefers sharing BeReals that are interesting rather than boring, even if this means ignoring the two-minute timer. “I’m not usually doing anything cool when the BeReal notification comes out,” Fernandez said. “I take it later on in the day.” Fernandez does not think posting late takes away from the app’s casual culture, and it instead makes his feed more exciting to scroll through because people are capturing fun moments.

One feature on BeReal depicts how many times a user has retaken their photos before uploading it for others to see. According to junior Stella Buch, most of her friends care a lot about how many retakes their posts will display to others. “People are really embarrassed to retake [their BeReals],” Buch said. Similarly, according to senior Avery Romain, even though many people strategically prepare their BeReal posts in a fake way, it seems as if they simultaneously want others to still perceive them as “real.” “Users try to look perfect while taking their BeReal, so that other people won’t see a bunch of retakes. It’s almost like people are being fake and genuine at the same time.”

Freshman Elsa Sonsini also believes that BeReal impacts everyone differently depending on how many friends a user has on the app. “Some people only add their closest friends on [BeReal], and they don’t care at all what they post. It makes the app much more casual,” Sonsini said. Contrarily, BeReal might feel more staged when a user has a larger number of friends on the app. This is because the user’s BeReal post reaches many more people, and therefore there is more pressure to post pictures that won’t receive judgment from others, according to Sonsini.

Senior Katrina Golob also suspects BeReal has shifted the cultures on other social media platforms, such as Instagram. “I feel like [BeReal] has made Instagram more casual, but a fake kind of casual,” Golob said. “People are still putting effort into their posts, but they want them to look much more casual.” According to Golob, even though she has observed these changes on Instagram, other apps such as Twitter and TikTok do not feel impacted by BeReal, since they are structured quite differently. “I haven’t seen BeReal influence other platforms,” Golob said.

Similarly, freshman Elia Choe never downloaded BeReal, or any other social media platform. Although many of her close friends regularly use the app, she feels no pressure or interest in participating herself. “You just take photos for a minute [on BeReal],” Choe said. According to Choe, if she were to ever start using social media, she would gravitate towards other apps, such as Instagram and Snapchat, before even considering BeReal.

Similarly, even though senior Eddie Fujimori downloaded BeReal about six months ago, he barely uses the app. “I don’t take BeReals most of the time,” Fujimori said. “I don’t see much of a culture developing on the app.”

Both Buch and Porteous are not sure how much longer BeReal will survive at Menlo. “BeReal just doesn’t have the same craze that it possessed in the beginning [of its popularity],” Buch said. “People can’t keep up with daily posts forever,” Porteous said.

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About the Writer
Photo of Kaylie Wu
Kaylie Wu, A&L Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 3

Favorite aspect of journalism: I love reading the finished print issues and seeing how much we've all accomplished!

Interests outside of school: writing, dancing, music.

Class of 2023

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