The latest social media app making a buzz is called BeReal, and its popularity soared in 2022. Reaching over 56 million downloads this year, its reputation for prioritizing more genuine, in-the-moment content even caught the attention of rival TikTok, which launched a competing feature named TikTok Now for users to share their “most authentic moments.”
At times, BeReal has ranked high in app stores alongside industry icons like Facebook and WhatsApp. Here’s what you need to know about it.
What Exactly Is BeReal?
BeReal encourages users to depict themselves in a highly authentic manner, forgoing the filtered and edited presentations that are characteristic of social media platforms like Instagram.
The app sends a daily alert asking users to post a picture within two minutes that shows whatever it is they’re doing at the moment. The timing of the notification is always random, and people are meant to share a quick snap without any retouching, editing or fabricating.
Users can still post after the two minutes is up, but others will be informed that they did so after the deadline. (For example, text underneath a shared picture may read “7 hours late.”)
How Does BeReal Work?
Taking a picture with BeReal is simple: All it requires is opening the app and snapping a selfie with your phone’s front camera while the back camera captures the view in the other direction, and then uploading the result.
Within the two-minute period, a user can retake their photos multiple times, but it’s not possible to edit or filter the final uploaded shot. Each picture is only visible to a user’s contacts for 24 hours. (It is saved in the uploader’s archives but will no longer be viewable for others.)
Unlike Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, BeReal uses the term “friends” instead of “followers,” and only people you personally add can see your posts. The app has built-in emojis, and users can respond to and comment on each other’s images.
What Type Of Content Will You See On BeReal?
What differentiates BeReal, which was founded by Paris-based Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, is that it offers a “new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life,” according to the app’s website. But despite its bid to advance authenticity, some BeReal users will hold off on posting until they are in a suitable place.
“In all honesty, I tend to wait until I’m in a scenic or cool location,” said New York City dog walker Macartney MacDonald, who has used the app since June. “And I try to make sure that I at least look decent. I occasionally retake [my photo]. But for the most part, I usually use my first take unless it’s [too] truly atrocious to actually ‘be real.’”
Because the app sends an alert at different times of the day, the type of content varies.
“What you see really depends [on] when the notification goes off,” said Tanasi Gomez-Greene, who started using BeReal in May and now has between 20 and 30 friends on the app.
“If it’s the middle of a weekday, most people are at work, but it can sometimes be interesting to see what people’s work looks like. If it’s during the weekends or later at night, you can see people on a hike with their dog, at a club with friends or getting a tattoo,” he said. “People can also intentionally wait to post a BeReal until they’re doing something more exciting.”
According to data from Statista, Generation Z users (specifically, those who are 18-24 years old) represent the app’s major audience. And accordingly, their content can be different from what people in other age ranges post.
“I have 133 friends on BeReal. On weekdays, I see a lot of studying. Eating is also a big one,” said college freshman Arianna Gold.
“Another big trend is to have a clueless person who isn’t familiar with the app take the picture for you. Because the app takes a picture … [from] the front and back camera, you get a funny close-up shot of a random person taking the BeReal. My brother and I played this prank on my mom, which spurred her into getting the app.”
Does BeReal Actually Lead To Healthier Social Media Use?
A great deal of research suggests that “doom-scrolling” and excessive social media consumption can have prolonged negative impacts on mental health, including mood swings, trauma responses in the body and a loss of empathy. BeReal tries to address this by providing users with less curated and more authentic personal content, but whether that will actually influence a person’s mental health or overall social media habits may depend on the user.
On the one hand, BeReal attempts to limit the kind of harmful effects linked to other social media platforms. The app offers a greater sense of community, according to MacDonald, especially when that community is close-knit and private.
MacDonald added that the content posted on BeReal is “tamer” and more family-friendly than what’s found on Snapchat because it involves snippets of people’s day-to-day lives.
BeReal doesn’t currently have an advertising platform, and it aims to reduce kind of the pressure exerted by other apps over content and algorithms’ influence on engagement. This, in turn, may cause less stress for users about what to post and when. Gomez-Greene said that although he experiences a few minutes of “anxiety” when receiving a notification to post, he prefers the lack of endless scrolling that BeReal offers compared with other social apps.
“Unless you’re following hundreds of people, it’s hard to spend more than 5-10 minutes on BeReal,” he said, adding that users must create their own post before they can see friends have shared.
But although BeReal may provide a healthier social media experience for users, allowing them to interact with the app as much or as little as they want, that doesn’t mean it prompts positive changes for everyone overall. MacDonald, Gold and Gomez-Greene all prioritize sharing less-filtered content on BeReal, but they haven’t deleted apps like Instagram and Twitter that have been linked to unhealthy outcomes.
“BeReal has the potential to be better than other social media platforms if we use it for what it was intended for. But know that like any other app, we can’t help but experience FOMO (fear of missing out),” said Dr. Sue Varma, a board-certified psychiatrist in New York City.
“The app has the potential to catch people doing what they would be doing anyway, which represents authenticity to the max,” she added, saying that a college student recently told her that some of her friends found out on BeReal that their boyfriends were cheating.
No matter how “good” an app is compared with other platforms, though, it should remain a complement to real-life interactions, argued Varma.
“BeReal can be a great way to stay in touch with people in between meetups,” she said. “However, if any app makes you feel less-than about yourself, more lonely, rejected or bullied, take a break or uninstall.”