Trend Z: authenticity on social media

by Semira Arora (’25) | November 18, 2022

Art by Allyson Wang (’23)

In the past six months, the app BeReal has achieved virality and become one of the most popular apps for Gen Z. Alexis Barreyat and Kevin Perreau founded BeReal in December 2019 with the goal to be the “anti-social media”: a platform where users post an unedited photo within two minutes using their front and back camera with the limitation that they can only see what their friends shared after they themselves have posted.

BeReal’s most famous feature is that users can only post once a day at a random time when the notification goes off; this spontaneity encourages users to “be real” and capture whatever is going on around them at the moment. With over twenty million users, BeReal appears to be the popular solution to the artificiality of other social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, because it creates an organic community of close friends where one can share their life without any attempt to disguise their image.

BeReal presents itself as an honest platform, which to some extent, it is. Positive praise surrounds the platform for its straightforward approach to combat the issues that other social media apps generate. Apps like BeReal starkly differ from traditional social media culture, such as Instagram. Heavily filtered and edited pictures populated pre-pandemic, or precisely 2010s, Instagram feeds. Now, “authenticity” floods Instagram. Instead of perfect posts, Instagram contains casual photo dumps, candids, and unfiltered selfies–all curated to be perfectly imperfect.

This transition is known as “performative authenticity” and is key to understanding the progression of the digital world. People want to choose their best moments to appear as naturally perfect as possible on social media, yet they avoid intense curation since no one wants to be perceived as artificial. Furthermore, Day 1 Agency captures the irony of performative authenticity succinctly: “The effort to appear real, ironically, has resulted in content that feels even more performative.”

Yet as social media transitions into falsely creating a semblance of natural perfection, BeReal perpetuates this through its “anti-social media” social media sentiment; the inherent act of capturing a moment and sharing it will never be a truly authentic reflection of the moment. The whole notion of capturing a memory actually prevents one from living in the moment; one actively selects aspects desirable to project to others. The problem with BeReal is that it advertises being an authentic platform, but in any type of image-sharing app, authenticity will never exist. Memories are meant to belong to the version of you at that moment; documenting it and skewing the moment to be shareable, even if it is on a smaller scale like BeReal, will forever alter your perception of the moment.

Furthermore, although BeReal prides itself on its authenticity, people still have the ability to post late, with no substantial indicator of this besides the duration between the notification and the post at the top of the image. Often, this results in users waiting to post their BeReal past the notification in anticipation of capturing a more significant moment rather than their mundane routines. Although BeReal prides itself on being the platform that enables everyone to truly share their lives “at the moment,” BeReal posts often become selective rather than spontaneous.

All in all, BeReal in theory seems like the perfect cure to the problems brought about by other social media apps. However, the misalignment of its mission of authenticity and reality prevents it from achieving its anti-social media status. 

Categories: Column, Opinions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s