Every day, 20 of my friends and I are supposed to post a picture at the same time. Really, it’s two pictures, taken simultaneously. One is a selfie, our faces angled toward the camera. The other shows whatever is in front of us. In one, I might see a friend’s face, in miniature, overlaid onto a photo of her laptop, on which I can see her trading Slack messages with colleagues, none of whose names I know, about a situation that doesn’t mean anything to me. Below this, another friend’s face will appear atop a photo of a subway platform — she’s coming home late, taking the G train. Someone else is lying on a plaid bedspread, eyes closed in exaggerated exhaustion. Someone is walking across a crosswalk, AirPods in. Someone is shopping for clothes online. Someone is eating a watermelon with a spoon.
These images of us and our surroundings, and those posted by millions of others, are the core of an app called BeReal, which by mid-August had become the No. 1 free iPhone app. The rules are simple: We receive a single notification each day that tells us all, simultaneously, “Time to BeReal: 2 min left to capture a BeReal and see what your friends are up to!” We take the picture. We post. We scroll.