I downloaded BeReal for this article
At its core, social media is a highlight reel. We strive to show off the best parts of our lives to the people who friend, follow, or subscribe to us.
Although social media is supposed to connect people, studies have shown that social media can actually increase feelings of loneliness, because it allows adolescents to quantify friendships through seeing events posted online.
Apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Tiktok have algorithms that push the most ‘engaging’ content onto people’s feeds and For You Pages. Social media is no longer (if it ever was) about sharing your life with your friends; it’s become a game of who can make theirs look the most appealing.
That’s partly why Alexis Barreyat created BeReal in the first place: as a new social media app that encourages users to be more authentic — to BeReal with their followers. He founded the app in 2020 with a mostly French audience, and it gained popularity across North America in 2022.
BeReal markets itself as “not another social network” on the App Store, where it’s charting as the number one app for social networking. Its unique feature is that all users in a given zone are sent a notification at the same time and have two minutes to capture what they’re doing at that moment. The website calls it “a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.”
There is no option to upload a photo, so users don’t have the chance to filter or edit their photos. And since users must post within two minutes to avoid posting late, there is very little time to retake a bad photo — and if they do, their friends and followers can see exactly how many tries it took them to get the perfect shot.
According to the app’s FAQ section, you can post late and still unlock your friends’ BeReals for the day. In my understanding, though, ‘posting late’ is looked down on by BeReal users. It gives the impression that the poster saw the notification but waited until they were doing something more interesting before posting. In the words of Lewis Capaldi — that’s “not very real of [you].”
What I find interesting about BeReal is that it goes against the ‘normal rules’ of social media — the ones that are designed to make you want to keep using them. It’s almost common knowledge now that these apps create dopamine cycles, a result of constant scrolling and liking. But BeReal claims to encourage users not to endlessly scroll through the app, since they can only see their friends’ posts for the previous day’s BeReal.
Like R. E. Hawley said in an article for the New Yorker, “the daily two-minute countdown gives the app a gamified edge, much like maintaining a Snapchat streak or sharing Wordle results.” That ‘edge’ can create an app addiction in the same way as Snapchat, Wordle, and Duolingo streaks.
However, users need to be on or near their phones at all times to see the notification within two minutes of it appearing, lest they be accused of deliberately posting late. BeReal encourages people to live in the moment — but if you really lived in the moment and put your phone away, you’d miss the notification.
My phone is almost always on Do Not Disturb, so I downloaded BeReal to test my notification theory — and I missed posting on time all three days I had the app because I wasn’t on my phone. In my opinion, posting late because I didn’t see the notification makes my posts more genuine, but many BeReal users would disagree.
As for its longevity, BeReal has said themselves that the app won’t make you famous (“If you want to become an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram,”) so I don’t see it being a long-term replacement for anyone who relies on social media for their income. Users are also posting their ‘BeReal dumps’ on Instagram, so I don’t see the new photo app ever overtaking Instagram’s popularity.
Nonetheless, BeReal seems to have found its niche among people who are tired of Instagram’s commercialized, influencer-filled, never-ending feed, and for now, at least, it seems like it’s doing alright.