On most social media platforms, it’s easy to curate an image—regardless of whether or not it represents one’s real life. On BeReal, however, this is not the case. The app, created in 2020 by French entrepreneur Alex Bareyatt, recently gained traction in the U.S. and is making waves at Bowdoin and other college campuses across the nation.
The mechanics of the app are simple. Once a day, at a randomly-selected time, all users are given the same notification: “It’s Time to Be Real!” Upon opening the app, a two-minute timer will appear for the user to take simultaneous pictures with their front- and back-facing cameras. Users can add friends to view a timeline of others’ daily “BeReals,” or posts on the app. Users can also react to these posts with either comments or with pictures of their face, which can be either pre-recorded photos or live snapshots called a “RealMoji.”
In the past few months, more Bowdoin students have adopted this simple-but-novel concept.
Alex Washburn ’25 discovered the app early this semester through his brother, a student at Brown University. Washburn began using BeReal to keep in touch with his family.
“I would not think to send [my brother] a photo of myself every day,” Washburn said. “But now I see him every day. It’s a great way to [get] an authentic glimpse into what he’s up to.”
The consistency and the routine of posting on the app each day is a highlight for Washburn.
“With social media, especially among our generation, you’ll post not at all, or maybe once a year, or maybe every few months,” Washburn said. “Even then, it’s a fabricated and planned-out post. For BeReal, though, you get to see people at their best and at their worst, and they don’t really put too much thought into the photos that they’re taking.”
Adelaide Evans ’22, however, takes a different stance on the candid nature of BeReal.
“It’s still a very pressuring app,” Evans said. “There’s a pressure to be doing [interesting] stuff.”
Evans’ appreciation for BeReal comes from saving daily snapshots more so than seeing others’ “BeReals” or using the app’s social functions.
“I like having the memories,” Evans said. “It’s really satisfying to do it every day and then have a view of every single picture that I’ve taken over the past two months.”
The app also rekindled a few of Washburn’s friendships from home.
“I’m starting to connect with some people that I haven’t been talking to too much from high school, and I get a really cool glimpse into what their college lifestyle is like,” he said.
Washburn believes the app keeps him close to friends both at school and over break.
“It really is a way that you end up talking to your friends more,” Washburn said. While I’m at home … at least I get to see what they’re up to. It’s a good way to stay updated with each others’ lives.”
Some students see BeReal and Instagram as filling a similar social media niche due to the two apps’ similar photo sharing and commenting features. Among these users who see BeReal as a more “real” form of communication, there is concern that the app may become as staged as Instagram.
“People from high school that I haven’t spoken to [ever] ‘friended’ me on BeReal,” Evans said. “[I’m worried] that it’s becoming like Instagram.”
Nicole Nigro ’22, however, doesn’t see a transition to some form of “plannedness” as a worrisome possibility. The key to using the app in a relaxed way, she believes, is for users to limit their number of friends.
“It’s very intimate, especially compared to Instagram,” Nigro said. “I [intentionally] only have like 21 friends on BeReal.”
From Nigro’s perspective, the quality of her experience depends on the timing of the daily posting notification.
“It’s fun when it hits in the afternoon because everyone actually posts at the same time,” Nigro said. “Whereas if it’s at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday, a bunch of people say ‘I don’t want to post in bed!’ and will [wait to] post in 12 hours.”
However, Nigro doesn’t mind sharing these less glamorous moments of her life, such as a snapshot from bed.
“That’s okay,” Nigro said. “It’s okay to be real!”