published about 4 hours ago
I always get a feeling of sly excitement when I sneak a glimpse into someone else’s home at nighttime. This usually happens when I’m walking around my neighborhood in Brooklyn, or when I’m traveling and can’t help but wonder how the people in any given destination live (and decorate). I’m not necessarily trying to look, but when it’s dark outside and the lights are on in the house, it’s easy to catch a passing glance at a bookshelf or dining table. This brief intimate peek into a stranger’s home is also, in a way, a peek into their whole life. And this sensation is surprisingly similar to what I feel when I use the new social media app BeReal.
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I first heard about BeReal from Gen Zers on TikTok in the spring and decided to give it a try. The way the app works is this: Every day at an unspecified and uncontrollable time, a notification goes off, alerting you to take a photo — and a single click snaps a shot of both what you’re doing (using the normal camera), and yourself (using the front-facing camera). A few months into using BeReal daily, what I find most interesting and endearing are the glimpses into my friends’ domestic lives. It’s especially captivating since, in New York City where apartments are often quite cramped, we’re not always spending time at each other’s places. What can I say, I’m nosy! If you’re my friend, I want to see what your house looks like. I’m curious if you put your groceries away right when you get home, or if there’s a lingering Trader Joe’s bag sitting on your kitchen counter. Do you light candles on the days you’re lounging at home alone, or are those just for parties? The list goes on.
BeReal describes itself as “a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.” And it’s true: Since no one can predict when the app will notify users for a daily photo check-in, you can’t plan your life around it. And if you do wait to post until you’re doing something cooler than lounging on your couch, your friends will see that you’ve posted late and they’ll know you weren’t really being real. And what’s the fun in that? I’ve noticed many app users, myself included, at times, expressing the desire for the notification when they’re at a party, sitting in a beautiful park, or doing something of interest to prove that their lives are cool and fun. I feel this, I do. However, my friends living their lives at home is still what I find most endearing.
Since downloading the app, I’ve noticed a surprising number of details about my friends’ homes that I might not see otherwise, and it makes me feel closer to them. I saw one recent post of a friend hanging picture frames with her boyfriend — the daily BeReal notification sent just as they were deciding where to place two frames — and her post made me feel like I was part of their home decorating project. I noticed another friend’s kitchen in the background of a photo, and saw she had far more kitchen cabinets than a typical New York City apartment. I’m now inclined to ask her about her snack storage situation. One of my best friends recently bought a house in Denver, and though I haven’t had the chance to visit, it’s been exciting to peek into her home as it comes together through her BeReals. I may not be there physically, but in the spirit of BeReal’s unfiltered, raw, and yes, real, photos, I feel more connected to my friends than I do when I watch their more curated Instagram stories or even view a photo that they’ve chosen to send me.
If you use BeReal, consider this a challenge to revel in the ordinariness of your posts and those of your friends. I can’t be on a white sand beach or the top of the Eiffel Tower at the exact time the notification is sent everyday, after all. But, I can enjoy the daily peeks into my loved ones’ lives. And if you’re the type (like me) to steal a look into your neighbor’s home on an evening stroll in hopes you’ll get a good look at that new chandelier they just installed, remember that BeReal is there to fulfill that nosy curiosity for your inner circle daily.
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