Students want to ‘Be Real’ online

Teenagers drawn to authenticity of app


Noah Kaufman, Claire Satkiewicz

In a staged photo, junior Andrew Burke mimics the process of taking photos for a BeReal while hanging out with his friends in the choir hallway during lunch. Some students and experts believe BeReal became popular because it encourages users to be more honest about their social lives than they might be on other social media platforms.

As junior Andrew Burke helped his sister move into her dorm at Purdue University, both of their phones chimed in unison. The app, BeReal, had sent a notification to all of its users, alerting them to take their daily picture. Burke raced against the two-minute timer to capture a photo of his sister and her friend in their newly decorated room.

Each day, at a time unknown to users, every participant is simultaneously notified to take a photo. Users have two minutes to snap a picture on the app, which captures the front and back cameras. If users cannot takephotos for their daily “BeReal” on time, they are still allowed to post, but the photos will be marked late.

“I really only use [BeReal] once a day,” said Burke. “But I’d say I like it more [than other social media platforms]. It’s different. It’s kind of fun. It feels more personal with your friends.”

According to Nichole Santee, a Ph.D. candidate studying media and public affairs at Louisiana State University, one reason BeReal is popular is because it is more authentic than other social media platforms.

“I think people are getting more and more tired of the filtered, fake lives … that so many people have built on social media,” said Santee. “[BeReal] promotes being yourself and not worrying about if your makeup is perfector if you have the perfect background or whatever it is, so I think people like the fact that it’s unfiltered. [BeReal captures] a real moment in time.”

According to Brad Kerr, researcher at the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Pediatrics, social media users, specifically teens, are becoming more interested in apps that move away from the traditional “Instagram approach,” in which users only share their most exciting moments.

“There’s interest in something that’s a little bit lower pressure or lower stakes,” Kerr said.

According to Burke, he appreciates that there are no likes on BeReal.

“[BeReal] doesn’t make you feel like one person is better than [another] person or anything like that,” Burke said. 

According to Santee, unlike BeReal, most social media platforms have filters and other effectswhich add societal pressure.

“I also think there’s kind of a nice breath of fresh air that we’re not being bombarded with ads and targeted content and things like that,” Santee said. 

“You get to showcase your life no matter what you’re wearing or where you are,” said Santee. “I think that’s part of the reason why people are enjoying [BeReal], because it’s real life. It’s real, everyday images that are unfiltered and really just showing who you are as a person.”

According to Burke, his friends would not usually hear about his experience of helping his sister move into college. However, he was able to share this event with his peers through BeReal.

“We all took our BeReals, and it was just kind of a fun way to share all the work we had done,” Burke said.