Throughout the rise of the internet and social media in general, we’ve established time and time again that who we are on social media isn’t true to who we are in real life. What if an app tried to flip the script? BeReal is one such app. Its mission statement is to “create an alternative to addictive social networks.”
BeReal is different from other social media apps because it only allows you to post once at a random time the app selects. You have two minutes to post a picture of yourself and where you are. If you miss the two-minute window, your followers will be able to see how late you were. The point is to move away from the inauthentic glamour of apps like Instagram, where everyone’s pictures and lives are curated for clicks. By not allowing time to create something more polished, BeReal gives you the chance to provide as well as look through unfiltered windows into people’s lives.
Despite this, I struggle to find a reason why we need yet another social media app.
I understand the good intentions of BeReal and how, in many ways, it can be considered better than platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Unlike those platforms, BeReal’s CEO hasn’t needed to testify before Congress on claims that his app was promoting inappropriate and harmful content to teens. It hasn’t been accused of, as this Guardian article points out, providing its users with an “infinitely replenishing stream of fresh despair.” Unlike Facebook and Instagram, it doesn’t have an algorithm that chases after users’ attention, showing you more and more extreme versions of what the algorithm already knows you like.
This becomes dangerous when, like Molly Russel was in 2017, young people are shown darker and more damaging versions of what they’re searching for. Molly Russel was depressed. She didn’t know how to reach out for help and turned to Twitter, looking for community. Instead, the app recommended her more intense and triggering content, causing her to spiral. She ended up taking her own life. She was 14.
Also, why are we suddenly taking orders from an app? This app is grooming us to obey and not to question. What if it starts asking you to log your location twice a day instead of once, and starts following you more closely? I’m not saying that BeReal is the undoing of civilization, but I do believe that the addition of yet another social platform to our routine isn’t helping wean people off social media. It rather gives them another platform whose content, however limited, they can enjoy.
Although BeReal is, in many aspects, better than platforms like Instagram and Facebook, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question whether we need to be a part of it. Our collective ignorance about potential problems and dangers that come with any social media app is what leads to more stories ending like Molly Russel’s. With our lives and personal spaces already being constantly invaded by social media platforms, I fail to see why we need another one, however innocuous it may be. Additionally, the potential for this app to become a safety concern, if it isn’t already, is huge. Even though BeReal may seem unique in its approach to social media, we should think critically about how it, or any other new application, could affect us.
Antinoe Kotsopoulos can be reached at [email protected].