Teens are suffering under the pressure of social media. It infiltrates their lives, eats up hours of their day, and in return gives mostly shallow relationships and body-image problems. Social media also seems to compound anxiety and depression.
Are all social apps a wash, though?
BeReal claims to defy all of the “inauthentic” parts of Instagram and TikTok. The app encourages you to take a picture of your normal life. With no ability to edit the photos, BeReal claims it can provide the fun of interacting with friends without the downsides of other social media.
How does BeReal work? And does the app achieve true authenticity?
What is BeReal? Why is BeReal so popular?
BeReal has exploded in popularity over the past months. Since July, BeReal has ruled the App Store, sitting at the number one spot for downloads for two months straight. In August, it boasts 10 million daily active users. One author for the New York Times writes that BeReal is “boring, in a good way.” It’s a French-developed and owned app, created by innovator Alexis Barreyat.
Every day at a random time, BeReal sends out an alert telling you to post within two minutes. Users then take a selfie and front-facing picture simultaneously—that’s their post for the day. It might send out the notification at 10:12 a.m. Are you at your boring desk job? Take a picture of yourself and your spreadsheet. Are you eating a late breakfast while on vacation? Take a picture. It might send the notification at 9:35 p.m. Are you in bed reading a novel? Capture that in the post.
The point is that we allow our friends to see what we’re doing in real life, not just that one time you got married or went on a European backpacking trip (which makes your life seem like a Disney fantasy). BeReal’s app description says, “BeReal won’t make you famous. If you want to become an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”
On BeReal, there are no followers—only friends. Friends can comment and react with selfies on your post. All the posts disappear the next day. Since it doesn’t make sense to meet strangers on this app and it requires mutual following, BeReal seems like a more teen-friendly social app (for concerned parents reading). Unlike Snapchat, which is known for its sometimes sexual undertones due to its private posts deleting daily, there is no private messaging. And since you can only post once per day, BeReal’s UI also protects you from infinite scrolling. (We recommend turning off location tracking for basic privacy reasons.)
Will BeReal last?
For now, the app remains a start-up. It’s been in existence since 2020 and runs on investment cash. Eventually, it will need to make money. BeReal may end up selling ad space and your user data to earn revenue. In that way, BeReal seems unlikely that it will break from current, traditional social media.
There’s no indication that BeReal will replace Instagram or TikTok, even though it’s exploded in popularity. In that sense, “just one more social media app” won’t help any teen suffering under the weight of traditional social media.
The question remains: Will “boring, in a good way” eventually become just “boring?” Will teens stick with this more mundane app or move on? Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, isn’t taking chances. They have internally tested a copy of the BeReal formula for their own Instagram stories.
I, for one, enjoy BeReal (although I’ve been slowly stepping away from any social media in the course of writing on the subject).
BeReal might be shaky in the long run, but then again, it seems to be a step toward innovating in less harmful kinds of social media.
What does genuine authenticity mean for Christians?
While for most, authenticity means presenting yourself according to your own internal feelings and desires, the Bible takes a slightly different turn. While digging deep into emotional vulnerability with trusted friends is important and healthy in a Christian walk, Christian authenticity will also lead to something else: confession.
Confession means taking our sins, our failings, and the darkness in us and bringing it into the light (1 John 1:7). We bring our sins into the awareness of other Christians and pray to bring them before God. Followers of Jesus don’t simply tell the world, “I am this way, you deal with it.” We confess, “I am this way, a humble sinner.”
Christians do not need an ordained priest to confess their sins (Hebrews 4:14–16). We confess our sins first to God and then to others who follow Jesus (which would certainly include most ordained priests). Then, we apologize to whomever we’ve offended if that’s needed. God uses this process to heal deep wounds and misplaced desires (James 5:16).
When other believers respond to our confession by encouraging us toward Christlikeness, exhorting us in the gospel, and holding us accountable, we receive a holy part of the “authentic” Christian life. While Christians should be open and honest in their own struggles, God gifted us another step—confession and healing.
Are you close enough to other believers to confess your sins and experience Christ’s healing?
If not, pray that God would bring friendships that encourage honest conversations leading to confession and repentance. Remember that hard conversations and deep friendships take time and work, but the payout for believers is a multitude of blessings.