I’ve taken the liberty of doing everything I can to maintain the image that my life is perfect. Whether posting life milestones on Facebook, picture-perfect selfies on Instagram, funny videos of myself on TikTok, and carefully-worded opinions on Twitter, I’ve done it all.
When I first heard about BeReal, an app that supposedly promoted authenticity, I was immediately intrigued. The premise of BeReal is anchored on users capturing and sharing unfiltered photos at different times each day within the span of two minutes after they receive the notification.
When I began to try it out with a limited audience that consisted of my closest friends, I could see the charm of the app. Though I was a bit iffy at the beginning, I found that giving access to parts of my life I would not usually share could be liberating. On BeReal, I’ve shared pictures of myself doing the most random things — washing the dishes, sitting in a car waiting to get to my next destination, and rushing to my next class at my university. The app also holds many quirks that make it seem like the antithesis of other social media apps — your feed is not endless, the pictures aren’t immortalized on a feed, and the fun reaction emojis of yourself — which has attracted a wide array of users.
“BeReal doesn’t carry the same pressure as using Instagram in which you have to look good — I can just be my normal, goofy self. (The app) encourages you to be organic, which I try to do,” Matthew Cañete, a user since 2022, shared. Because the app allows users to be more authentic, it also allows them to feel closer to their friends as they get a glimpse of their true, everyday lives.
Though seeing snippets of my friends’ day was fun, I began to notice that everyone was having more interesting days than I was. I have friends who remain picture-perfect and for some reason, they just always seem to be in different places. While most of my earlier BeReals were of me working at a cafe while looking like a hot mess, my friends remained gorgeous as they partied or strolled around the beach. Even on BeReal, they seemed to be leading a completely more exciting life than I was.
On BeReal, I can post anything since my audience is so small so I don’t feel pressure to be pa-cute to anyone.
Because of this, my enjoyment of the premise of authenticity only lasted so long — as my friend list expanded, my inclination to curate an acceptable identity on BeReal began to kick in. Joaquin Querido, a user of the app since August 2022, shared: “Recently, I’ve been posting late BeReals for when I’m doing something more exciting. Even if you post late, there’s no punishment anyway.” Admittedly, I’ve taken advantage of the fact that BeReal allows its users to post late. I would delay posting my BeReal of the day until I’m out and fully made up, or I would comb my hair to make it look more presentable before snapping a shot. I wanted the “authentic” me to still look put-together, fun, and interesting.
Even in apps like BeReal that try to veer away from the shackles of showing that you are living the ideal life, it’s become almost inevitable to want our online persona to look like they are happy and thriving. “It’s human nature for everyone to want to present their best selves since it’s one way of letting yourself believe that your best self is your authentic self also,” Cañete mused. In an app that promotes authenticity, one might ask, then: what does being “authentic” really mean?
“How do we define authenticity? Is it just for showing things as it is regardless of quantity, or does quantity have to be involved? If you take one shot only, that’s just one glimpse of your entire day,” Querido mused.
As someone who tries to segregate the different identities I hold in life, I myself don’t have a full understanding of what it truly means to become authentic. Is the self ever really authentic, more so in the online space? Although the app has noble intentions, it cannot rid people of their natural inclination to perform. After all, imagery has two factors — the audience and yourself. People want the satisfaction of knowing that they have a good life, and sometimes, they want their audience to know that, too, no matter whom it might be.
But on the flip side, the app does allow people to loosen up their belts a little, especially when one limits their audience. Regarding his experience with the app, Querido shared, “BeReal allows me to literally post anything without having to worry about whether or not the picture looks good. On Instagram, I (feel like) I’m chasing a sense of prettiness and being presentable. On BeReal, I can post anything since my audience is so small so I don’t feel pressure to be pa-cute to anyone. But I don’t know if my answer will change once the audience grows.”
I don’t think that I will ever entirely get rid of the desire to look put-together and acceptable, even on BeReal. I will have days when I look good and be at a scenic place, but there will also be days that I will be at home wearing a bun and a 10-year-old shirt I can’t get rid of while cramming yet another deadline. But what I appreciate about it is that it gives me the space to drop my Little Ms. Perfect act. I probably won’t drop it all the time, but BeReal’s premise is a welcome respite, especially on the days that I care a little less and want to be a bit more real than I usually am.