A whole new take on IRL, BeReal is the intentionally ugly step-sister of Instagram. The app, developed in late 2019 by its French founders Kévin Perreau and Alexis Barreyat, who previously worked at GoPro, really took off this April and only continues to grow. With monthly active users growing by 315% in 2022, according to TechCrunch and the app rising to the number 1 spot on the App Stores’ free apps list in the US, the growing hype is real.
So how does BeReal work? Once downloaded off the app store, users write in their username, which as of yet are up for grabs without adding 101 or 1999 at the end. Once contacts are added the app itself resembles an instagram feed, in its most strip-backed, analogue-esque form. First on this feed, friends’ posts are blurred, with a little message reading ‘post a late BeReal’ to reveal them. Each day the feed resets and all BeReal users’ phones are pinged with a notification that reads “2 min left to capture your BeReal and see what your friends are up to!”, with a 24 hour window to post late.
Does this mark a move towards authentic online connection, or yet another medium to advertise life’s highlights, or perhaps even another marketing or influencer-led platform somewhere down the line? “A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life”, BeReal poses as an authentic antithesis of instagram and other platforms, but “Who you’re friends really are” is an interesting statement which suggests something a little more invasive and sinister than a daily update to your close circle…something a bit more dystopian and Black Mirror-esque.
Notably, BeReal’s rise is actually largely thanks to its so-called antithesis, Instagram. A surge in BeReal screenshots being posted across instagram users’ stories and posts arguably defeated BeReal’s purpose, but was great publicity. The app’s popularity can also be credited, in part, to the ‘“casually” curated post’ trend that has been dominating instagram feeds for some time now, popularised by the likes of celebrities and influencers like Emma Chamberlain. The ‘casually curated’ trend speaks to youth culture’s craving for authenticity and anti-social media sentiment; the perfect opening for BeReal.
It’s in the name. BeReal, in a nod to your camera’s b-reel of instagram post cast-offs – the non-highlights reel, the app aims to generate content that’s mundanely fresh and fun, in keeping to its uniquely authentic ethos. BeReal users can only post one picture a day, simultaneously from their front and back camera, which is not to be retaken once taken (unless you refresh the app, but that seems to be a hack) and once posted. Pictures are unedited by default and posts are often caption-less. Friends can comment on and photo-react to each others’ posts, and then everything disappears again within 24 hours.
Ironically, the anti-social media social media has yet another platform to thank: TikTok. Recent trends, humorously, as is characteristic to the platform, show users at the Eiffel tower, or in the club, posing with friends waiting at their phones with the caption “just waiting for my BeReal notification”. To the pessimists and cynics among us, this is an unsurprising corruption of its purpose as users wait until ‘post-worthy’ moments to upload, showing an already curated use of the app that’s USP is quite literally all about being real, and living in the moment.
So let’s be real, really real, is BeReal, not really that real? While posts uploaded last only 24 hours, these can be saved and reposted permanently to other apps. Although the main feed is users’ friend circle, there’s another public feed too. And while the 2 minute warning encouraged impromptu posting, people are waiting, or even staging their BeReals, and it’s only a matter of time until influencers and brands jump on the trend, in fact US food chain Chipotle already has with its new ‘For Real’ campaign. It will be interesting to see how quickly brands, creators, and influencers alike pick up on the scent.
And from a more sinister perspective, this hyper-meta social media, following popularity, could begin to employ data-mining of public (or perhaps even private) posting, gaining sophisticated intel on our IRL daily habits. Or from a less sinister one; simply the next instagram.
All said and done, BeReal does cut through oversaturated social media noise, and so far serves as a quick, easy and personal way to keep in touch with friends. And while its authenticity may be disputed as to whether it’s truly representative of what your friends really are up to, what isn’t up for debate is that BeReal is about to be the next big thing. Whether that’s a good thing or not.
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