Bubble Rap: Susie Lau on the art of BeReal

·3-min read
 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

The soundtrack to my holiday in Corfu consisted mainly of the gentle buzz of cicadas, the lapping sounds of a waterfall pool and the clink of ice cubes in a glass of rosé. Until the daily clarion call, ‘It’s time to BeReal!’, came thundering through from my partner’s nieces, who aged 19, 21 and 24, sit firmly in the Gen-Z cohort. I therefore used this opportunity to shamelessly glean Gen-Z goss for the purpose of this column. A few of my friends had started venturing on to BeReal, currently the fastest-growing social media app (ranked No 1 in the UK, US and Australia in August) but I hadn’t seen it in action IRL.

The premise? Every day at a random time, you’re told it’s time to ‘BeReal’, punctuated by a yellow caution emoji and you have two minutes to post one selfie and one outward facing image, composited into a sort of FaceTime screenshot of what is supposed to be a candid, un-edited mundane snapshot. Post outside of that two-minute window at your peril as your verified BeReal friendship group ponders the precise authenticity of your belated BeReal. I’m told if you’re on the toilet or mid-coitus, you may be excused.

As the Corfu BeReal moments comprised of loafing around a lovely villa, lounging by picturesque pools and impossibly clear-watered beaches and eating copious amounts of exceptional seafood, I was wondering to what degree this was all ‘real’. The resulting BeReals are in essence another iteration of holiday flexing without the Paris filter or the multiple takes (you will be shamed if you attempt to get your thirst trap eyes right).

BeReal’s remit is, of course, to stick two fingers up at the highly edited and curated polish and with that, monetistation of social media platforms. Its motto? ‘BeReal is life, real life, and this is life without filters. BeReal won’t make you famous. If you want to become an influencer you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.’

But ‘real’, overused and abused in the 21st century, has long been an architected aesthetic in itself. Effectively the app is a sophisticated manifestation of NormCore. Proliferated by trend forecasting agency K-Hole in 2013, it referred to an attitude defined as a ‘post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness’. Fashion hasn’t quite got over the impact of the term, with hoodies and T-shirts still being the bread and butter of many brands. Looking not bothered and like you haven’t tried at all now extends to the aesthetic of selfies, the very ones that are posted on BeReal.

Are you tilting your head so you deliberately create a double chin? Are you scrunching up your face so you appear to have that captured-on-35mm film eyes-half-shut look? Does your outfit instantly scream, ‘I can outdo you on Depop finds.’ Does your outward shot proudly display a packet of Frazzles or an unfulfilling sarnie on pappy Chorleywood bread (you can’t BeReal if you’re GF/DF or at all inching towards the diet of a wellness influencer). The goal is, after all, to convey the LOLz crapness of an everyday lunch. Or better yet, does your outward view include public transport of any sort (Instagram influencers wouldn’t be caught dead sitting on the Tube). The scuzzier the view, the better. If there are beer cans and fast food wrappers tumbling around a sticky bus/Tube floor, that would be the ultimate boon.

Well done, you’ve BeenReal. Now reward yourself with a carousel of extra-extra outfit selfies in front of gorge backdrops. You deserve it.