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Madison Smieja was in the car with her family on the way to her great-aunt Patsy’s funeral when her phone buzzed with her daily BeReal notification.
She recorded a quick selfie video of herself panicking that featured the caption, “pov: my Be Real went off,” before snapping the BeReal photo — which takes a pic from both the front and back of a phone camera — of herself and her family, dressed in all black together in the church pew as they waited for the service to begin.
“She was so greatly loved,” the 19-year-old from Minneapolis told BuzzFeed News. “I was sad to see her go, but I knew she would have wanted her family to be joyous that day.”
Smieja posted her aunt’s funeral BeReal, with her smiling next to her sister and cousin, on TikTok. The post quickly got nearly 100,000 views.
“We were all happy to see family we haven’t seen in so long and we were just goofing around, and I thought it would be a funny way to honor her and that day,” Smieja said.
The BeReal app is having a moment right now, with people now prepared for their daily pic after months of practice. Regular users have gotten into a routine of knowing what they want to post or actively staging the setup — which has morphed into a TikTok challenge of asking strangers to take their photos, unaware the BeReal app will take a pic of them as well. Users either screen-record the process so that they can use the footage for their TikTok account or capture others using the app in the wild. Some will just be waiting for the perfect moment regardless of the allocated two-minute window, happy to post better content later.
The popularity of the app has led to Instagram introducing a filter that copies the “dual photo” aspect of BeReal, but it hasn’t taken off just yet.
“It’s such a fun way of being candid,” Smieja said. She first got BeReal in May and hasn’t missed a single day since downloading it.
The randomness of the timing keeps it spicy. A search for “BeReal funerals” brings up dozens of TikToks, with the one video having 10 million views. Others are posting IUD appointments, toe surgery, and even a car accident. One girl posted a TikTok joking that she had taught her surgeon how to post a BeReal if the notification were to go off during her breast reduction surgery, while another made a meme about her BeReal alert coming through during a breakup conversation.
While content featuring dark humor may seem to be the most likely to go viral, there are lots of people using the app to mark positive life highlights. Azaan Iqbal knew that he wanted to do something special to commemorate his graduation from the University of Manchester with an English and history degree last month.
He’d been thinking about a selfie on the graduation stage, and then while he was awaiting his name being announced onstage, his phone buzzed with the iconic “⚠️It’s Time To BeReal ⚠️” alert.
“I heard the notification and everyone who had BeReal looked at each other,” Iqbal told BuzzFeed News. He got a friend to record him as he got onstage to receive his diploma to make sure he got footage from multiple angles.
He said his family were very supportive, and he could hear his mom shouting, “Oh my god. That's my baby. That's my boy,” when he posed onstage for the selfie. One person in the audience even commented on his TikTok afterward: “I was there! I loved this — you threatened to outshine my own child as the star of the graduation ceremony.”
His TikTok of the graduation BeReal now has over 160,000 views, with people tagging their friends and writing comments such as “us in two years.”
Although Iqbal has now taken a job at a recruitment agency, he has called himself “an aspiring full-time TikToker.”
Because of the nature of the app, which prevents likes or shared content, becoming a BeReal influencer is pretty much impossible — that’s why people like Iqbal and Smieja are focusing on posting videos about their noteworthy photos in an app outside of it.
The official TikTok account for BeReal actively encourages people by not only commenting on their videos but also posting its own viral content. As time goes on and more users join BeReal, TikTok might become reminiscent of Tumblr being inundated with Twitter screenshots prior to its eventual decline.
As BeReal users remain reliant on third-party apps such as TikTok or Twitter to share their content, I am watching to see if any changes will happen to stop the most viral BeReal moments from taking place on a different platform.