I didn’t need another social media app in my life. I’ve had Facebook for years now and finally gave in to Instagram a few years ago since all my college students were on it. I avoided TikTok and SnapChat – who has time for all of these? Certainly not this 45-year-old.
So, when BeReal started popping up in different corners of my world last fall, I was hesitant once again. First, per usual, it was my college students who introduced me to it at our annual Fall Retreat. “It’s meant to capture you in the moment, you know less posed or staged,” they said. Intriguing, I thought, but I still didn’t join.
A month later, we had friends over for dinner and BeReal went off while I was brewing the coffee. Our friend started explaining it, telling me how her college-aged daughter is on it, and it all came back to me from the month before. “Wait,” I said, “this is a daily occurrence?” I wasn’t ready to commit to that even though I was taken with the concept again.
About two weeks later, we were visiting our nieces and Lily (13) found out that I knew about BeReal. “Come on, Uncle Lyn,” she exclaimed, “you have to join it.” She had been on it for a while. Turns out BeReal is a French social media app that’s been around since 2020. She, and many of my other connections named above joined sometime during the 2022 calendar year, which is when the app gained in popularity.
BeReal is meant to capture you in the moment no matter what may be happening in your life. Every day at a random time, anyone who has the app is notified simultaneously to capture and share a photo in two minutes. If you don’t post in those two minutes, don’t worry, you can still post later. But the app will let everyone know, including you, that you posted late. Sometimes I feel judged by that, but it also reminds me to do my best to capitalize on the present moment and not always what I want to showcase.
Ultimately, that’s why I joined. That and the three invitations, most especially the one from Lily. When your 13-year-old niece asks you to join her in something like this, I think you do it. For many reasons, but that’s an article for another day.
I’ll admit that posting something every day gets a little tedious. Most of my friends on the app are my former college students and a couple of current ones. I appreciate seeing people post their real time happenings and feeling connected to them even if it’s only in the realness of our pictures. You can take a retake, but most of my friends don’t, which I appreciate. Again, this is supposed to be less posed and staged than BeReal’s predecessors like Facebook and Instagram.
Speaking of being real, in February at Oxford College, my office will have the opportunity to host Kate Bowler, Duke Divinity professor and cancer survivor who “studies the cultural stories we tell ourselves about success, suffering, and whether (or not) we’re capable of change.” Kate was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at the age of 35, which caused her to re-evaluate the research and beliefs she had been studying. She then went on to write the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved),"“which tells the story of her struggle to understand the personal and intellectual dimensions of the American belief that all tragedies are tests of character.” Since 2018, she has hosted a wildly popular podcast called “Everything Happens” that has even included our current Interim Dean, Ken Carter (Aug. 18, 2020).
Kate has helped me understand myself and my own theology more deeply. She probes the ways in which we know and experience suffering and happiness and the relationship between the two and that has helped me know how to be in relationship to others, especially the college students with whom I spend so much of my time. Primarily, though, her willingness to be vulnerable and real has taught me the importance of owning my feelings and their impact on me and those around me. Not everything is perfect and shiny and happy and that’s ok.
If you haven’t joined BeReal and are looking for an alternative way to engage social media, I recommend it. You can choose when and how you post, of course, but the concept of it may allow you to be even more real with yourself and life. For those of you reading this in the Oxford area, I truly hope you’ll consider joining us for Kate’s talk on Feb. 7 at 7:30 pm in the Oxford College Student Center (801 Wesley Street, Oxford, GA 30054). If you’re interested, reach out to me at email@example.com, and I’ll help you register for this free event.
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University and lives in Oxford, GA with his spouse and 10-year-old. His new book published by the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate Press is The Sacred Year: A Contemplative Journey Through the Liturgical Year.