Opinion: Let’s BeReal: one app has teens “buzzing” with excitement and pride


Photo illustration by Avery Dyer

One notification has thousands of teens around the world buzzing with excitement. Literally. 

Each time I feel a sudden buzz in my jacket pocket, I rush to grab my phone so I can take a photo. Yet, the app that has me so eager to post has completely defined my view of social media. 

I have always viewed social media as a place to get updates and stay “in the know.” Lately there has been more talk about the downsides of it — how the apps are simply making users, including teens and children, feel self-conscious about their appearance and jealous of not being involved in activities posted. I can understand feeling the same – you scroll to see what your friends are up to and, nine times out of 10, are left feeling not included or less than others.

However, a new app has changed this general negative view of social media. 

The app “BeReal” was developed in 2020, but gained popularity in the last year among what seems to be all of Gen Z. The concept is as follows: at a random time each day, the app sends a notification to all of its users, notifying them they have two minutes to post on the app to “BeReal” that day, consisting of taking a photo using the front and back camera to showcase what they are doing in that moment. Users cannot see others’ posts until they have posted themselves, meaning they can post late to put on makeup or pose for a photo, but will be punished in a way. Friends are able to see how many retakes and how many hours late you post. Most users take the photo as soon as they can after the notification goes off, no matter what they are doing or what they look like. 

While it seems like a miniscule shift, the app has genuinely changed how I view social media. The same people follow me as do on the more “official” and “fancy” platforms like Instagram, yet I somehow don’t have a care in the world about what my BeReal posts look like or what people think of them. I spend hours crafting and editing the perfect Instagram post only a few times a year, but “BeReal” posts are meant to be in the moment and don’t allow users to second-guess what they’re posting. Things I would otherwise overthink – whether I’m wearing makeup, what people can see in the background, how messy my room is – all goes right over my head. 

I also simply feel more connected to others around me in the app. When homecoming comes around, it seems like my Instagram feed is hundreds of the exact same post – a bunch of teens in a field or in front of a fountain posing with their friends in “glamorous” outfits that, frankly, all look identical. But with “BeReal,” it feels as though I am getting to know each of my friends on another level, especially those I don’t necessarily spend time with outside of school. Each post is different: some of them posing with their pets, completing a unique hobby or spending time with their families. I feel more connected, even to my close friends, seeing a side of them I wouldn’t ever see on platforms with such a stigma as Instagram.

The app also gets rid of the idea of being jealous of “celebrities.” A user’s feed only displays their friends’ posts, or they can switch to the “discovery” feed, showcasing random strangers’ posts from that day. There is no keeping up with unrealistic beauty standards or being jealous of others’ looks. Obviously, jealousy can always arise from seeing someone posing with new nails or going to dinner with their significant other, but the app takes a step to avoid the idea that all social media just serves to make teens feel bad about themselves. 

And while the app does force teens to grab their phones in moments they weren’t otherwise using technology, the point of the app is to press post once and put the phone down. Others also see the app as just another platform to pose for. Sometimes when I get the notification and tell my friends with excitement that “it’s BeReal time,” they clarify that they only do it when they’re doing something interesting and wait until that point in the day to be real. While sometimes you are busy or in an important meeting while the notification goes off, it is noticeable when you wait until you are at a concert, 21 hours after the notification, to post. 

Yes, there are still ways to measure yourself against others with BeReal, but the app is one step in the right direction toward a healthy environment inside a social media platform. I have posted multiple selfies of me lying in my bed without makeup on publicly and feel no shame. Middle school me would have never let this slide. 

It is slowly changing the definition of social media in the eyes of teens, transforming their beauty and social status standards one notification at a time.