What Is BeReal – And Is the ‘Authenticity-Focused’ Social Media App Really Healthier Than Instagram?
As of now, BeReal doesn’t show ads, only your friends’ content.
If there’s one thing social media doesn’t have a lot of these days it’s authenticity. Even the accounts that promote keeping it real are usually peppered with filtered, carefully chosen and often sponsored posts. Our feeds used to be filled with friends. Now they’re crowded with influencers, celebrities and brands.
Many people are over the idea of scrolling through other people’s most outstanding moments and just want to see something genuine. But can a social media app really be authentic?
That’s what the app BeReal hopes to accomplish by providing a platform for users to show their true selves, not curated content. Here’s the lowdown on this app and why it might be a healthier alternative to Instagram.
What is BeReal?
BeReal is a relatively new social media app that’s grounded in the idea of authenticity. It was founded in January 2020 by former GoPro employee Alexis Barreyat and now has around three million users. (Since April of this year, BeReal has been ranked in the top 10 of free iPhone social networking apps almost every day.) Its reviews are overwhelmingly positive so far.
The app is simple: Each day, users can take a photo that shows both their front-facing and back-facing cameras—like what a FaceTime screenshot looks like—which then gets posted to their feeds. There are no filters, no photo editing and no ads. The amount of retakes you can snap are also limited.
The idea behind all of this? To create a social media experience that’s more authentic and less curated.
How Does BeReal Work?
So, we know that you can use the app to post an unfiltered photo that shows your point of view from your front-facing and back-facing camera simultaneously. But there’s a little more to BeReal than that.
First, the app limits when you can post. Here’s how it works: Once a day, users receive a notification that they now have two minutes to take a picture and post it. The time of day is random. If you miss your two minute window, or opt to post later when you’re doing something more interesting, your friends will know that you didn’t snap your picture at the so-called “right time.” But, after all, the theme of the app is transparency and authenticity so disclosing this information is very on brand.
If you don’t upload your photo, then you can’t see what your friends have taken and posted. This limits lurkers on the app—everyone has to participate to see the content, unlike apps like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
Is BeReal Better for You Than Instagram?
The big question of course is if BeReal is better for your psyche—and your soul—than the big social media platforms, particularly Instagram since that one has a similar format of posting images into a feed. Because of the constraints on how and when you can use the app, it does seem like BeReal could be a better option for people’s mental health. Here are some key reasons why:
It’s designed to be more authentic
The sentiment behind this app is to focus on realty, while Instagram is all about aspiration. BeReal isn’t a way to show others your highlight reel. It’s not presenting a curated selection of photos that only presents a slice of your real life. Instead, it encourages users to post about the mundane: You might see your friends sitting at their work desks, eating breakfast, lounging on the couch watching Netflix or waiting for a dentist appointment.
On BeReal, there are likely to be fewer images of people partying on boats, enjoying a bespoke brunch or wandering idyllic, quaint towns in their best boho chic outfits since most people don’t spend the majority of their time doing these things. The format of the picture—having to see your face and what you’re taking a photo of—also adds to the realness.
It doesn’t allow filters
BeReal’s authenticity mission extends to how you look in your photos, not just how and when you post photos.You may be unshowered, face free of makeup, hair messy or have food in your teeth. Plus, you can’t smooth out your wrinkles or blur your face to make yourself appear quote-unquote “better” looking. While Instagram gives users the option to pretty much recreate their entire face and environment (since you can edit your pictures within the app or by using other tools before uploading) BeReal doesn’t.
It’s less pressure — and more fun
There’s no expectation for your photos (or your face) to look a certain way on BeReal. Everyone else is posting the actual reality of their lives—not just the highlights—so there’s little pressure to show off the best version of yourself or your environment. To try to would defeat the whole purpose of the app. This makes the app more fun since you actually get to see what your friends are up to each day without feeling jealous or less than if your life doesn’t seem to measure up to theirs.
It limits mindless scrolling
Because BeReal limits when and how you can post, there is less content in your feed than on other social media apps. You can only see what your friends post (and only if you post a photo yourself) so there’s less of an opportunity to go down a rabbit hole of mindless scrolling on your phone. This prevents the app from being just another time suck and encourages you to get off your phone and live your life.
It doesn’t have an advertising platform
As of now, BeReal doesn’t show ads, only your friends’ content. There are no sponsored posts or interstitials getting you to buy things or showcasing supposedly more ideal existences. (Remember when Instagram and Facebook were like this?) There’s no pressure to click and no annoying sales pitches. Just you and your friends and your daily lives.
Will BeReal Be the Next Big Social Media App?
Only time will tell if BeReal will indeed be successful and overtake more traditional social media apps. But as younger generations get more vocal about wanting authentic social media experiences, this app (and others like it) will likely gain popularity.
After all, most of us came to social media to connect with friends, not to be influenced or to be sold products and lifestyles. Many of us are tired of seeing curated feeds of filtered faces that don’t show true authenticity. A lot of people just want to keep it real these days—and expect others to do the same.