Being Real in the Classroom

In recent months, the social media app called “BeReal” has grown tremendously in popularity, with over 53 million downloads worldwide. Everyday at a different time, BeReal notifies its users to take and share a photo within two minutes of receiving the notification. Millions of people across the world pull out their phones at the same time and rush to capture a photo to share with their friends. A unique characteristic of BeReal is that the photo captured on the app is double sided, designed to take a picture of both yourself and your immediate surroundings.

BeReal’s main selling point is that it is a “unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.” Unlike its other social media competitors, BeReal uses random time selection, placing a lot of emphasis on authenticity. The app is meant to highlight what people are doing in a single moment, that they cannot prepare for. Characteristics of the app include timestamps, location titles, and a counter of how many retakes the poster took. Unlike Instagram, the app does not have the option to add any filters or editing, and has no follower counts.

Since school has been back in session, the BeReal has gone off many times during traditional school hours. The BeReal alert can prove quite a distraction for students as they rush to take a picture within the two minute time slot. As a result, teachers have adopted many different opinions of the BeReal app, with different policies about its usage during class. Our very own Apex High teachers are no exception.

Some Apex High teachers are fans of the app while others see it as pointless. Mr. Oltmans, a teacher in the latter group, stated that to him, BeReal “makes absolutely no sense” because it is no different from other social media platforms, except maybe being “a bit dumber.” Another teacher explained that “BeReal tries to avoid staged and curated photos of people’s lives, but at the end of the day, it’s still encouraging students to compare and critique each other, which can be negative.”

Ms. Gall, a fan of BeReal, explained her appreciation for the app.“I personally love BeReal. It is one of the only forms of social media that I don’t spend hours crafting a perfect post. I also only allow my very close friends and family to follow me on BeReal as opposed to Instagram where I have over 1,000 followers, most of whom I do not talk to. One reason I like BeReal is because it is a great way to stay in contact with my friends. I am an introvert, so calling someone after teaching all day is not my favorite way to recharge. BeReal allows me to see what my friends are doing each day with minimal effort. My best friends live far away, so BeReal allows me to see their day to day activities even though we are so far apart.” Ms. Gall would also like to note that while it is not relevant, she believes the SNL skit about BeReal is pretty funny. Ms. Rotondo, another Apex High teacher, noted that she admires the app for allowing people to “connect with peers and socialize, without staging pictures and only posting the good ones.”

With each teacher having a different opinion about the BeReal app, each classroom has developed different policies regarding its usage in class. Ms. Rotondo explained that she can typically tell that the BeReal has gone off because students normally rush “to check the notification and take the picture.” Ms. Gall stated that “if the BeReal notification is sent during class, I am okay with students quickly taking it- as long as everyone in the picture is okay with being in it.” She also noted that the only time she wouldn’t allow students to take a BeReal is during a test or quiz. Mr. Frederick explained that in his class, he will take/ be in a BeReal but that he doesn’t put in actual effort for it because “that would BeFake.” Another teacher stated that she lets her kids take theirs because it doesn’t bother her, explaining that “it takes all of thirty seconds, and it makes them happy!”

On the other hand, Mr. Oltmans explained that his issue with BeReal is that “it can violate other students’ right to privacy if their picture is being taken without permission.” Another teacher explained, “ If a student has a phone out for any reason that is distracting me as a teacher, they lose it for the rest of the period. I don’t have time to re-explain directions or concepts and deal with students who are upset that they didn’t learn something because they were busy using BeReal or other social media instead of paying attention.”

Some teachers don’t have a specific BeReal policy, but instead maintain a general phone policy. Mrs. Murphy explained, “I have an LED stop light in my classroom that is set to green (phones can be out), yellow (you can use your phone when you’re done with your assignment), or red (no phones out whatsoever). So, no BeReal policy, but if it’s green, go for it.” Similarly, Ms. Rotondo stated, “I have a conversation with my students at the beginning of the year about the use of phones and how to learn to be responsible for their education, learning how to put the phone down and pay attention to the lesson. But I also have BeReal, so when it goes off during class, I have a moment to bond with my students and show them that I am a real person and have the same social media apps that they do. It is a momentary brain break and allows for some relief from learning hard math.”

While teachers throughout Apex have varying policies regarding the usage of BeReal in the classroom, it can’t be argued that every student should respect their teachers’ individual policies. Students should check with each of their teachers to determine what is acceptable within their classes.

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