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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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BeReal: Authenticity in the Social Media Age

With 10 million daily users, and status as Apple’s most downloaded free app, BeReal is shaking up the world of social media.

The concept is simple. Users receive a daily notification, giving them two minutes to post a simultaneous front and back camera photo from their phone. The dual photo means that people share both what they look like and what they’re doing, no matter how unglamorous either might be. No filters. No edits. Just a real, authentic snapshot of our day.

There’s plenty to celebrate about this app. For people tired of perfect, polished ‘Insta-reality’, BeReal is a good antidote. It doesn’t invite hours of mindless scrolling. It’s free from adverts and follower counts. Most people just share with their friends – nobody’s going to become an influencer on this platform.

On the other hand, it can be a little boring. How long will people be interested in shots of laptops, office furniture, and half-eaten meals? It also doesn’t guarantee authenticity: users still have a limited window to craft their shot, or can post later when they’re somewhere more interesting.

But perhaps the biggest limitation is this: BeReal is still ultimately about projecting an image of yourself. A momentary snapshot, which is only skin deep. A picture may paint a thousand words, but a thousand is still too few to express what’s really going on beneath the surface.

If people genuinely want authenticity we have to move beyond images to words; beyond a screen to embodied community.

BeReal is a fun supplement to existing relationships, but there’s a depth of connection that can only truly be found in trusting community and honest conversation. IRL.

As Christians, we worship a God who knows and loves us in our dull and darkest moments. We’ve experienced the power of being accepted despite our imperfections, and welcomed into a loving family. We have an opportunity to model that to others.

What if we led the way in recovering the lost art of conversation? What if we were known in our workplaces and neighbourhoods for being safe to talk to? Where people can be honest, without judgement or pretence?

This will require us to ask deep questions, listen well, and lead by example. We’ll need to resist the lure of Instagramification, and live lives that are, frankly, sometimes a little dull – but genuine. And in so doing, we can invite those seeking authenticity to join us in discovering the God in whose presence we can truly BeReal.

Liam Thatcher
Liam is a writer at Bible Society. His personal website is liamthatcher.com

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