BeReal: Dismantling social media dystopia, or constructing it?

It’s 2:34pm on a Saturday. You’re wasting away on the sofa like a Victorian TB victim. Suddenly, your daily BeReal notification pops up. Like the compliant social media slave you are, you snap a picture of the situation (with both the front and back camera) and press send. Photos of your friends, either similarly lazing or, irritatingly, enjoying their weekend, trickle onto your feed. Congrats! You’ve just used this year’s hottest app.

With 143 billion apps released last year, and your average user spending almost two and a half hours on social media a day, it takes a lot for an app to break into the mainstream. New app on the block BeReal, however, has managed just that. It’s clawing users’ hours out of the hands of Instagram and is finally giving TikTok some competition on the download queue. For those yet to be cajoled by friends into downloading BeReal, it needs little explanation.

Every day, at a random time, a chime reminiscent of a chipper fairy accompanies a notification informing you that it’s ‘⚠️ Time to BeReal. ⚠️’. Start mildly panicking; you have two minutes to take a picture of whatever you’re doing. After you’ve adjusted your hair or beckoned over your pet to exploit their cuteness for personal gain, you can upload it and see what all your friends are doing. As the name implies, it’s all about ‘being real’.


After developing both software and popularity in France during 2021, BeReal hopped further west in 2022. Currently, Bereal is most popular in the US, followed by the UK. With 28 million downloads since it launched, who knows which populations it’ll conquer next.

It’s easy to see BeReal’s draw. Every other app seems to be prioritising algorithms; TikTok’s For You Page streamlines content produced by strangers, and Instagram’s recent updates have made it difficult to find the pictures uploaded by your friends. The BeReal feed, on the other hand, is populated by just a handful of ‘friends’. It allows users to see what their mates are actually up to, a welcome contrast from the swathes of unknown influencers who populate other apps’ interfaces.

The act of ‘being real’ comes with a similar release. While highlight reels and Facebook posts let users emphasise the best parts of their days, weeks and months, BeReal is about appreciating your boring, unfiltered life. There’s something about seeing that your friends aren’t always out having fun without you that’s comparatively comforting.


On the surface, there’s little about the app to criticise, other than its incessant crashing, which is perhaps to be expected when all 21.6 million users jump online at once. Look a little deeper, however, and there’s something undoubtedly insidious about BeReal. In a world already so documented online, BeReal goes one step further and forces your hand in the matter. Apart from resulting in some admittable funny social faux pas (see: your friends taking their BeReal whilst simultaneously taking a sh*t), there’s an element of the social media panopticon to it. BeReal blurs the line between private life and public social media with every notification.

Additionally, whilst the app’s USP is the death of FOMO, most users would be lying if they said they didn’t care how they came across. Each uploaded BeReal is situated side-by-side, so that not comparing your friends photos is near impossible. Additionally, the app plays into the current trend of the ‘anti-aesthetic’; making your online posts casual and ‘unfiltered’. While relaxed in theory, the outcome is a pressure to make sure you’re constantly ‘post-ready’, and feeling bad about yourself when you aren’t.

Like any social media, there are pros and cons with BeReal. If you’re looking to stay up to date with distant friends or force yourself to document more moments in your day, you might be the app’s perfect clientele. But if you already find yourself bogged down with the expectations of social media, BeReal might not be the escape you’re looking for.

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Words by Kate Bowie

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