In BeReal, a social media app founded about two years ago that asks users to post unedited photos daily, some University of Maryland students find a way to connect authentically with their friends.
Once a day at a different time each day, every BeReal user receives a simultaneous notification from the app, prompting them to post an unedited photo of both what’s in front of them as well as a selfie.
While users are asked to post within two minutes of receiving the notification, they are still allowed to post their pictures hours after the notification goes off. Although the longer a user waits, the less authentic their content appears to others, Leilani Martinez, a sophomore social data science major, explained.
“You can post late but then everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you posted late … did you wait until you were hanging out with people to post?’” said Martinez, who downloaded the app about a month ago after a friend recommended it to her.
Despite the pressure to be authentic and post right as the notification goes off, Martinez said she’s found BeReal to be a refreshing form of social media.
Joseph Sweeney, a sophomore biological sciences major who downloaded the app a few months ago, compared BeReal to if “Instagram and Snapchat had a baby.”
While he said he doesn’t feel the pressure to look like he’s always having fun on BeReal, Sweeney said he does get upset when he misses his BeReal notification.
Sweeney said even when he’s doing something mundane, such as studying or grabbing food at the dining hall, he’ll still post what he’s doing at the moment.
“It’s just fun,” he said.
Others, like Mary Lige, a sophomore hearing and speech sciences major who downloaded BeReal more than a month ago, said she isn’t always authentic on the app, despite choosing to connect with only about 15 of her closest friends.
“Sometimes the notification goes off when I’m in bed,” Lige said. “I don’t want everyone to see that.”
Like Lige, BeReal helps Ashley Nguyen, a senior biochemistry major, stay connected with her select close friends while maintaining a “casual aspect” that feels small and “filtered.”
But even with just close friends on the app, getting a BeReal notification when you’re not doing something exciting can make some, like junior nutritional sciences major Christina Galanis, feel “self conscious,” she said.
“I feel like I’m always just studying or something when it comes on, and so my friend was joking, like, ‘Do you ever not study?’” Galanis said.
But not everyone feels the same pressure.
Sam Brendel, a sophomore public health science major, downloaded BeReal at the beginning of the semester after members of his fraternity started using it. He said he likes that BeReal is “a more laid back social media” that shows people’s “true self.”
While he said he doesn’t always feel in the mood to post when he gets the notification, when he does, it’s always authentic.
“I will just take a random picture of me in bed and you’ll see the rest of my dirty room, or I’ll be walking to class. You’ll just see my feet,” Brendel said.
Though not everyone feels comfortable making unflattering posts on BeReal, it doesn’t reduce the appeal of the app, Lige explained.
“I think some days it’s authentic, some days it’s not,” Lige said. “But I think it’s cool either way.”