BeReal allows me to focus less on what I’m posting, and more on the life I’m living
It was the onset of August, and I needed a break. The current social media landscape was too stimulating. Like any other netizen, I was active on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube, and it left me numb. Past midnight, I sat perpendicular to my brother and lamented to him. Social media was the bane of my existence, and I was sick of the love-hate relationship I had with it.
Being chronically online was a trait attached to me by the hip. I worked in the field of both media and marketing, and depended on the internet to stay up to date with current trends. Everything was happening online; being offline meant missing out. It’s an ironic time to be a writer; being a writer requires you to live, but here I was doing the opposite. I had an excuse for me to stay online despite my persistent desire to be off the grid.
I had gone on a 30-day social media break in early 2021 after reading Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. Though it did *change* my life, hard-set habits eventually made their way back. To no one’s surprise, social media made me feel the same way: shitty. I had gone on and off social media in attempts to go on a long-term social media break, and ended up with only futile endeavors. (My phone holds all secrets, such as the amount of times I’ve deleted and redownloaded my social media apps 💀)
Despite failure, I decided to try again. The idea was that I would go off social media for a month, this time with my brother holding me accountable. I banned myself from using Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, only allowing myself to go online once a week to update and get updated.
With all these apps gone, one app piqued my curiosity: BeReal. I had seen my friends post about it on Instagram, and I’ve been subjected to my friend’s BeReals as well.
I decided to try it out given the app’s premise: Every day at a different time, everyone is notified simultaneously to capture and share a photo in two minutes. It’s a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.
I was sick of the highlight reel culture of social media, and the possibility of authenticity (whatever that is, really) in an online space entertained me. In one instance, I gazed over my friend’s shoulder as she was walking me through the app, scrolling through her BeReal feed. One person was laying in her bed; another was studying for the boards. It was ugly, it was unpretentious, and I loved it.
Despite the app’s simplicity, it took a few BeReals to get the hang of things. (Yes, even Gen Zs can be noobs to things like these.) A BeReal takes two photos, one from your front camera and another from your rear camera. Only later on did I realize that they weren’t taken simultaneously; I learned that the app gives a few seconds of leeway before taking the second photo.
Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the one-camera view. The app allows you to choose between the front or rear camera view, while the other would be shot blindly. When it all boils down to it, the lack of control lends to a more authentic result.
Because I had no other platform to “distract” me, I found myself looking forward to the daily notification prompting me to take a BeReal. But the claims of BeReal being an anti-social media app were true. You get to see your friends’ BeReals for the day, and that’s it. The app is simple, boring and unsatisfying. It’s everything I need in a social media app.
BeReal allows me to focus less on what I’m posting, and more on the life I’m living.
My 21 finsta followers know this, but I’m a chronic oversharer. Though my main Instagram is spared from the excess of my brain, I often get caught up in capturing and curating moments to post online. The convenience of sharing things online had unknowingly become a burden to me. Taking a break from social media taught me the joy of keeping things to myself. I still maintain my social media presence, but I’ve become more intentional of what I want to share.
The app has become a source of comfort as well. I started to embrace the homebody in me because, apparently, everyone is more or less the same. With pretension out of the way, lives start to look more parallel: we spend our days in front of our laptops, on our desks, at school or at work.
Gwyneth’s Most Common BeReals: the Desk, the Laptop, the Window and the Couch
Somehow, BeReal satisfies my need to share something while removing the need to overshare. You get two minutes to post one thing a day; it’s a stark contrast to the hours spent curating content only for it to be lost in our polluted online bubbles. It’s reminiscent of a finsta, but better engineered to curb the dopamine rush of social media platforms. You have a smaller circle, the content feels more authentic than most platforms, and you get to routinely send ugly selfies to your friends 😉
My month-long social media break is over, and I was successful for the most part (special thanks to my brother for keeping me accountable). After exclusively using BeReal for a month, BeReal comes on top of my favorite social media applications. It does less so you can live more.
Words and Photos Gwyneth King
Art Macky Arquilla