Design by Grace Filbin

One day at work, one of my coworkers pulled out his phone at the host stand and said to me, “Maddie, come be in my BeReal!” A little confused, but too bored and tired to ask questions, all of the hosts gathered around him, our faces hovering over his camera, resulting in one photo of our foreheads and another of our feet. At first I didn’t think much of the interaction — being randomly called to partake in photos seems so normal today — but I eventually asked my coworker what we had just done. His answer was, “Oh, y’know, it’s BeReal,” so I have taken the liberty of filling in the blanks of his response.

Developed by French entrepreneur Alexis Barreyat in 2020, BeReal first grew in popularity with university students in France before it took hold of American college campuses this spring. The design is simple: At random times each day, users receive a simultaneous notification alerting them that they have two minutes to post a photo of what the user is doing at the time, no matter how mundane. Like every other social media platform, BeReal has a “Friends” function and comment and reaction features. The app functions as something of an “un-Instagram” because it lacks filters and photo editing, and previous posts disappear when new ones go up. According to Elisabeth Schuster, a public relations employee at BeReal, Barreyat created the app in order to counteract the perfection people display on most social media platforms and to insert some authenticity into our online interactions.

I will admit that I am not a big social media user. I deleted my TikTok account over the summer, and I only keep two social media apps — Snapchat and YouTube — on my phone. Over the years I have actively worked to keep social media at arm’s length due to its effects on my self-esteem and mental health. However, BeReal’s focus on authenticity and sharing the reality of one’s life with one’s friends naturally piqued my curiosity. So, I downloaded the app to use and journal about for one week and, at the end of the week, to address a basic question: Is BeReal any good?


Seven o’clock in the morning, before my first class of the day — I’d just downloaded BeReal. The sign up process was easy enough — just make a username and password, give the app my phone number, get my activation number and, bada bing bada boom, I became a proud member of the BeReal community. I selected a profile photo from my camera roll despite the app’s focus on authenticity and in-the-moment photography. It showed me potential friends from my contacts, and I fired off a few friend requests so that I’d actually have some content for this experiment. Then things got real: The app asked me to post my first ever BeReal. It wanted me, lying in bed in my pajamas, makeup-less, my bangs a mess, to take a photo. I closed the app. 

I waited until I put on a face and blow-dried my bangs into submission to post anything. I am entirely cognizant of the fact that this went against BeReal’s entire ethos, but I was also cognizant of the fact that my friends would be seeing these. People I know in real life would be seeing my posts, and I couldn’t bring myself to show off the rawest version of myself just yet.


Nothing remarkable happened on Tuesday, which can be said of most Tuesdays. Around 8 p.m., I was prompted to post my BeReal of the day, which I did — just an arguably low quality picture of my laptop screen from the back and an even lower quality selfie from the front. I did notice, however, that I found myself visiting the app just because. BeReal’s design does not allow for frequent posting, so my friend’s posts were the same pictures I had seen the night before. I did check the Discover page once or twice, but it was difficult to find anything interesting when I was just paying witness to people’s bowls of cereal and poorly-lit selfies, which did not attract me for long. I was appreciative of this aspect, though, because it did not create a scrolling addiction for me the way that Instagram or TikTok have in the past.


Today, my selfie was stylized — head turned at the optimal angle to pay attention to my classmate while also giving my friends my good side and jawline. That is posing! Carefully curating a photo for an app meant to be the opposite of curated, and once I had posted the photo I became almost self-conscious of that reality. Why on earth was I trying so hard to please others when we were all posting photos that would never make it to a more public forum?


I kept posing on Thursday; I’ll be totally honest, I wasn’t a big fan of my face that day. It happens. In my bedroom I have a full length mirror on the wall opposite my desk meaning that, if I turn around in my chair, I can see my reflection and Zoom calls also get a glimpse of my back and the wall in front of me. So when I was doing homework and received my BeReal notification to post a picture, I turned to my reflection. The resulting photo was a mirror selfie of myself in my desk chair, but I held my front camera all the way up to my eye. It felt too artsy or “campy” for BeReal, forcing me to face the same question that Wednesday posed. Why did I feel the need to make myself look more creative and curated than my friends on the app? On one hand I didn’t want to deal with my appearance, but on the other hand I felt silly for trying too hard. 


I got my first reaction! While I failed to utilize the tool myself, I did get one reaction in my week on the app. I posted a picture of myself watching this “The Lord of the Rings” clip while researching for another article. A friend reacted with a shocked emoji, which felt both appropriate and strangely gratifying. The reaction gave me the same feeling of approval that Instagram likes give me, as shallow as that sounds, which I didn’t expect from BeReal. This felt somewhat opposite to BeReal’s desire to change how we interact with social media, but these platforms requires a give and take — posting every day with little reward wouldn’t keep me on a platform for very long, but receiving some kind of approval or response from my peers fed my desire to post and keep up this experiment.


Far less exciting day than Friday. Quite literally nothing remarkable happened, nor do I have any philosophic wisdom about the nature of social media to impart from Saturday. I got the notification, took a picture of my homework and fired it off to my friends. 


And thus, friends, the experiment ends. I spent most of my Sunday either doing laundry or sitting in meetings before I had to run off to work. I was so busy that my BeReal post was a selfie and the seating chart at my hosting job, but I liked it that way. It felt fitting that my final BeReal post would be something mundane amid the hustle and bustle of a busy day, snapped and uploaded without a second thought. 

On its own, BeReal is an enjoyable app. Catching glimpses into the most mundane elements of my friends’ lives and posting my own silly photos of my meal or my calendar was very intimate. As someone who has worked to distance myself from social media, I also appreciated that the app’s design did not keep me coming back to it over and over just to mindlessly scroll. The use of reactions rather than likes was cute and refreshing, and, at its core, the app is simple and wholesome. Exactly what it intended to be. 

On the other hand, my experience with BeReal, though not bad, was a little uncomfortable. As my experiment came to an end and I sat down to write this article, I realized that I was being invited to face some strange truths about social media in my own life. Even in the first draft of this piece I couldn’t articulate those truths until my editor pointed them out to me, and I stepped back to put them on paper: I am not prepared to be authentic online, and social media has trained me to value likes and beauty over sincerity. 

I was only 9 when Instagram launched, and I was probably 13 when I made my own account. At a key developmental stage in terms of friendships and self-perception, I was being asked to create another, more perfect version of myself online. I grew up with this — with the need to be perfect on social media if I could not be perfect in real life and with the need to have my attempts validated by my peers and the platforms I spent my time on. Of course, I cannot blame social media for this entirely — I must shoulder some of it — but I can recognize that, since my early teenage years, I have been wired to approach my online identity opposite to how BeReal wants me to. The app was forcing me to face my own internalized biases and assumptions about what does and does not belong on social media. Still, it was not strong enough to rewire me in just seven days, nor was this long enough for this mission to be a subjective success. I consider this to be deeply unfortunate because I love BeReal’s stab at forcing me to face my own identity as it is intertwined with the concept of online authenticity. But in the modern social media landscape, I unfortunately struggled to appreciate the art of, well, being real.

Daily Arts Writer Maddie Agne can be reached at