New social media apps like BeReal romanticize the everyday. The problem? It’s boring.
The landscape of American culture exists on a pendulum, swinging violently into extremes: In politics, there is no longer space for centrists, only the radical right and the radical left, and those who have taken issue with traditional financial systems have moved almost entirely toward unregulated digital platforms. In the age of overproduced digital personas, it was almost inevitable that a hyper “real” digital revolution would emerge.
BeReal is an app that notifies its users at random, giving them two minutes to produce two images: one with their front camera, and another with their back camera. This has been branded as an attempt to create a more authentic digital space that reflects the reality of its users’ lives. BeReal is just a piece of a larger movement attempting to assuage the prominence of curated online personas that promote unrealistic ideals of beauty and lifestyle.
On TikTok and Instagram, platforms where unreasonable standards are largely promoted, a series of trends striving to normalize reality circulate. But with trends such as this, like the one in which TikTokers switch from filtered to unfiltered, the accounts that reach virality are often the Glossier-types, faces with structure that nears perfect by industry standards, free of the blemishes that the average human holds.
The problem with the normalization of reality online is twofold. In terms of beauty, it often promotes unrealistic standards even further than existing ones do. A pretty girl drenched in concealer whose waist is Photoshopped into obscurity is less likely to fuck with my own sense of self worth than a toned, un-Photoshopped model with naturally perfect features. The people that these trends favor are not accurate depictions of most people’s realities. (At least I hope they are not…) With lifestyle-focused revolutions depicting more truthful portraits of the everyday life of users, there is an overinflated romanticization of the mundane that plays into the urge to document everything. Setting videos of your backyard or laundromat to dramatic music does not enhance its appeal. Besides, I think evidence of each meal I make extends beyond the interest of even my mother.
Social media is distinctly out of touch with reality, and that can be uniquely harmful. But the answer is probably not a glorification of exact reality. I won’t be using filters to drastically alter my face, but I will continue to use photos that hit me at my best angle on Tinder. I will not post every vacation I go on in excruciating detail to make my life seem better than it is, but I also won’t be subjecting people to my everyday experience at the grocery store.