⚠️ Being Real is easy ⚠️
BeReal is good and one day it won’t be. Enjoy it while you can.
This will have to be quick – I am tired and have a plane to catch. We are going to Singapore to live a life worth living.
It was early on a Tuesday morning when I jumped awake from a lucid dream featuring the dimpled cheeks of Instagram boss, Adam Mosseri. He was grinning through a camera lens, ring-light unseen, telling me Instagram was going to get better, that video was going to save me, and that all of this was, actually, what I wanted. At some point, as I understand it, I had begged him for the changes and shown without doubt that if there was simply more video available, less scrolling, and fewer posts from people I cared about, I’d be appreciative and humble.
This was the start of a long week for the folks at Meta and therefore the folks at Instagram, too. Facebook reported a drop in revenue for the first time, another pivot to video inspired mass protest, and (Dear God!) the Kardashians were upset. Mosseri picked up his tools and moved the family to London. What are they to do?
The answer is not very much. It was only 48 hours after I mumbled about the copycat nature of Meta’s entire business on radio that Instagram rescinded on its latest efforts to compete with TikTok. Now, said Mosseri, they would be moving softly into any changes. No force quitting here. Just a team of humble engineers, trying to make the best product possible for you.
Which is of course a lie. Not a complete lie, they’d say. And they’d be telling their truth. I am sure there are many people working on the World’s Largest Tech Products who genuinely believe they can make the world a better place. Perhaps it is the small product launches and new refresh sounds that help them forget about the war crimes and murders. Or perhaps it is the money. Either way, they’ve built something we’re all obsessed with – you can’t fault that!
This has been a wretched week to me. A week where so much focus was easily paid to the failings of tech giants, all of them obsessed with transforming symbiotic relationships into parasitic obsessions, pointing into every fold of skin we have, looking for profit. It is easy to feel hopeless. The reality is that we are desperate for an alternative, but have thrown our toys around angrily at everything shown to us. Yak? Stupid. Peach? No thanks. Whatever Vine2.0 was going to be? Pass. Even TikTok can thank the pandemic and a Law And Order enforced stay-at-home mandate for its success. Before all of this mess, the App Formerly Known As Music.ly was the peak of cringe. I know, because I was on it, and I was mostly ashamed to do so.
And now we are facing the latest wall of shame that is BeReal, an app that begs us to take awful photos of ourselves and share them in unison, all at once, in a symbol of sacred gratitude that would make even the oldest cults blush.
We have had pieces written about the boringness of it all, the attractive nature of normality, the rebranding of finstas. Mostly, we have had balding marketing grifters with NYT profiles and young Gen Z digital prophets with online courses confessing that BeReal, while enjoyable, just doesn’t have a way to scale. It won’t save us from ourselves – we’re too obsessed with perfection now, thanks to the odd handful of photoshopping apps and facetuning mechanisms. In a world where the bare minimum is the maximum, you’d be a fool to commit to anything else without employing that standardised defence we call irony. You are microdosing fomo, they say. Eventually, that fear will just disappear.
The reality is that the space left for cultural criticism of the latest app or social network is an ant’s dick wide. Tell me again why things are good but actually bad; why a generation you don’t understand has embraced something you’re not involved in; why it’s painful to think about growing old.
Here is the only take that matters: Be Real is good now and one day it won’t be. A golden hour between mass public uptake and techbro monetisation.
Enjoy it while you can.