Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The rise of casual social media: How authentic can we truly be?

September 8, 2022

Once a day, the world stops for two minutes. Whether people are in class, with friends, or most commonly, on the couch when the BeReal notification goes off, everyone scrambles to take the perfect picture.

The wildly popular BeReal app prompts you to share a photo once a day when a notification comes through at a random time. No one knows when this notification will go off, which makes it impossible to plan the perfect photo-op ahead of time. The app allows users to retake their BeReal within the two-minute timeframe, but not without informing your friends how many tries it took. It also shames you for not being as real as possible by sending your friends a separate notification if you make a late post.

BeReal’s slogan: “Your friends. For real." It seems like the setup for the perfect genuine social media. But many users think it might not necessarily be the authentic look into their friends' lives that the app promises. It is a common occurrence for users to post hours late, once they are doing a fun activity, or even using a secret glitch to their advantage so their friends don't see how many times they retook the photo.

“I don’t like when people intentionally wait to post just to post something cool that they’re doing,” apparel and textile design sophomore Evan Yalowitz said. “That’s not the point.” 

Social media posts have historically been called out for their inauthenticity. People are craving change by calling for social media posts to be held to a lower standard. However, people question if even more damage can come from people only posting carefully selected, polished photos, but only this time under the false pretense of authenticity. 

“I think the internet sort of has its own language,” journalism freshman Hannah Jacobowitz said.  “They’re not necessarily being deceptive, it's like not the same as they would be in real life.”

BeReal isn’t the only platform where users want a more casual experience. There has been a recent resurgence of the 'casual Instagram.' This takes form in ‘photo dumps’, where users post slides of recent photos of their camera roll. Some users create a second account dedicated to posting these more personal photos. The days where the average Instagram feed was filled with professionally posed and edited pictures are seemingly vanishing.

However, this trend experiences a fate similar to BeReal. The aesthetic has changed, but the effort behind it has not. Users place a heavier focus on making their "casual" posts appear effortlessly perfect.

The desire for casual social media comes from a rejection of impossible standards for perfection that social media promotes as the norm. But this is not the only factor at play.

"The Generation Z and their Social Media Usage: A Review and a Research Outline,'' by Jyotsna Rai discusses how Generation Z’s relationship with social media is far different than our predecessors.

"Certain behavioral implications are also there as outcomes of their social media usage like adventurous nature” Rai wrote. “Too much sharing of personal information over the virtual world in quest of social affiliation could invite undesired complications.” 

The issue arises when authenticity becomes a trend that you don’t want to miss out on. Those facing the pressure of curating the perception of a perfect life will use these avenues to maintain this image, which continues to promote an unhealthy standard of perfection.

Before authenticity became a trend, the average user knew that the content they were seeing was almost always posed and edited. It wasn’t genuine, but it wasn’t expected to be.

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