Column Sjoukje Osinga: BeReal

Some apps are just a bit too smart.

Just before class, a student takes his BeReal. Even I, a boomer, recognize that app. BeReal asks you at a random moment every day to post a photo in the next two minutes. The idea is that you don’t have time to smarten yourself up, but show your life as it is. Be real.

Some apps are vital to me, like Google Maps. Others are handy, like Buienradar. Or nice, like IMDb, where I can find out where I know that actor from, causing me to only half-watch the film. But BeReal is indispensable to me. Now all three of our sons have left home, they don’t seem to see the need to keep their mother up to date with what they’re up to. They never call – phoning is so last century anyway – and they only WhatsApp if they need something. But now I have BeReal, I get a photo every day because I’m their Friend. Triumphantly, I tell my husband, ’he’s in class!’ or ‘Is he gaming again?’

It does have its disadvantages, though. If your son who’s just moved to Sweden hasn’t posted a BeReal all day, and no blue ticks follow the WhatsApp message you then send, you lie awake half the night. You dream up endless scenarios in which he gets beaten and robbed and tied up with duct tape and has been lying alone in his apartment for hours, calling for help. Suddenly you understand your own mother, who had to make do with that one-coin call from a telephone box when you were travelling for three weeks in some scary country.

Also, you can only see each photo for one day, and you can’t download them for privacy reasons. So a burning question led me to make a screenshot and send it to my husband. “Is this the same girl as the one last week?” I immediately got a WhatsApp from my son: “Why are you screenshotting me?” Caught in the act! But how did he know? “I get an alert.”

Some apps are just a bit too smart.

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