These days, you blink and there’s a new social media app making the rounds. It’s become almost a full-time job, toggling between the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, with each one promising users a totally different experience: Instagram is the millennial favorite for picture-perfect snaps and artful photo dumps; TikTok is more Gen Z oriented and focuses on candid, humorous videos that can go wildly viral. But now a new app is aiming to bring something to the social media space that other platforms tend to lack: authenticity.
Launched in 2019 by Alexis Barreyat, a former GoPro employee, BeReal—which has raised $30 million in Series A funding and grown its user base by 315% in the last year alone—is quickly on the rise. The app’s mission is simple: to make users post candid, spontaneous, filter-free content without the overanalyzing or overthinking that attends other social media experiences. Every day the app prompts you randomly with a push notification and you have just two minutes to post and share a photo with your friends—whether you’re feeding your fish, leading an important work meeting, or getting frisky on a Friday night.
Once you’re ready to take your snap, the app’s camera uses both your front and back cameras to capture a selfie and whatever it is you’re doing. (These pictures, which are viewable for 24 hours, cannot be manipulated in any way, although you do have two minutes to retake them, if need be.) The idea is to do what you can to make the deadline, no matter the circumstances—the antithesis to the pro-influencer approach, where every social media post is planned right down to the outfits, location, and time of post. (If users fail to produce a BeReal post on time, their upload gets a shameful “posted late” tag.)
The app is one of several that have popped up recently promising a real experience. Dispo, for instance, is inspired by old-school disposable cameras, encouraging users to share photos that aren’t edited. (You also can’t see them until the following morning at 9 a.m., allowing them time to develop.) Intrigued by the idea of an app basically forcing you to share your daily happenings, however, I decided to test-drive BeReal for a week. Below is what I learned.
It’s my first day on BeReal, a glorious Monday, and I’ve begun by forcing half of my friend circle to get on the app. If I’m going to be posting unhinged content for a week, I’m going to need to see something in return. My cool, young Gen Z coworkers are unsurprisingly already on the app, so they befriend me instantly. Now it’s time to post. I patiently wait for the notification, and it comes in the early afternoon. I’m working from home today, so my first BeReal is quite boring: I take a selfie in my living room. Only I forget that the app’s camera is double-sided, so my back-camera view is completely blurry. Oh, well. I don’t retake it, and I post it with the comment, “I don’t know how to use this thing.” It’s giving boomer energy.
After posting my first BeReal (on time!), I scroll through what my friends are posting. My coworker Irene (hi, Irene!) took a snap of herself answering e-mails at work, while my coworker Atalie (hi, Atalie!) is taking a drink of water—we love hydration. The first day of content is comically mundane. I realize we’re all just human beings chained to our desks, doing our silly little jobs. Hopefully tomorrow is far more entertaining. I take a quick glance at the app’s Discovery page, where you can see what strangers are posting, and it’s a little more intriguing. I see someone ordering Chipotle; friends shooting hoops at basketball practice; someone working on a puzzle. How chic!
On day two I am giddy with anticipation. I head to the office, wondering if I will have to take a BeReal during a meeting, but the whole day goes by and the app is radio silent. Bummer—my outfit was cute today. I get back home, and my friend wants to play a few matches of Dead by Daylight on Xbox, so I log on and start playing. That’s when the app prompts me. As I’m trying to evade a bloodthirsty killer in a virtual world, I take a selfie, all the while wearing my nerdy pro-gamer headset that cost way too much money. I guess my secret identity as a gamer is out.
I take a look at what my friends have posted, and it’s a hot mess of content. Half my feed is people in Ubers, heading to happy hours or dinner plans. One friend is in bed, reading a book. (Or are they pretending?) Another shares a photo of the thriving tomato plants in their garden. It’s kind of charming how simple these uploads are actually. I’ve yet to be blown away or have FOMO from a BeReal, which is the opposite of Instagram, where everyone seems to be living glamorous, exciting lives.
Right when I’m getting into the swing of BeReal, things take a turn. I’m once again working from home today, and as I’m logging off, I get a text from my coworker Irene saying, “BeReal just went off!!” I never got the notification, so as a result I post three minutes late today. The shame! In a panic I take a candid photo as fast as I can, pouring a nice, heavy glass of wine by my bar cart. It’s giving mom-on-Facebook energy.
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In my feed, meanwhile, someone shares a view from their chic apartment with gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows. My nosy self wonders how they afford this. One friend is eating sushi, while another shares a photo of their dog, who looks happy with a chew toy. Cute!
So what’s my takeaway after a week of posting—and taking in—raw, candid content? There are clear pros and cons. The pros? There’s no emphasis on how many likes or shares your posts get, so you can truly post without care. It can be fun to document random moments you wouldn’t otherwise too. The cons? The app is new and still glitchy, so sometimes it doesn’t notify you when it’s time to post. It is also, ultimately, just another virtual gimmick that takes you away from living real life. Sure, the app brings spontaneity and authenticity back to social media—but wouldn’t the most authentic thing be to just not use social media? If you want to BeReal, I suggest you GoOutside, LeaveYourPhoneBehind, and TakeAWalk.