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If you have not heard of the BeReal app and you are not a member of Gen Z, you are forgiven. The social media app is the latest to capture the attention of the younger generation – and its popularity is growing rapidly.
This year alone, downloads have grown by at least 315% according to data from Apptopia.
What is BeReal?
Social media can be time consuming and pressure-inducing, but BeReal says it aims to change that.
That is how it works. Once a day you will receive a notification from the app. It tells you it’s time to post your BeReal for the day and you have two minutes to do so. Your friends are also supposed to receive the message at the same time.
The idea is that you take a picture of whatever you are doing at the time, no matter how banal or exciting it is. You can go to class, take a bus to work, or maybe you get the message right when you sit down for dinner or on a bike ride.
You take a picture of what you do with your rear-facing camera, and at the same time your phone takes a picture of you with your front-facing camera – surprise!
That is it. There are no filters or third-party apps to change your look. Reruns are allowed and you can still type if you miss the window, but in either case your friends will see that you repeated the image or posted late.
The parameters in place are billed by the app as “a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily lives.”
Users can also see where their friends are on a map and discover other publicly broadcast BeReals. The catch is, before you see other people’s posts for the day, you need to post your own photos.
Why is it popular now?
BeReal’s 315% increase in downloads from year to date is significant, but it’s not the only notable figure. The app was launched by French entrepreneur Alexis Barreyat in 2020, but at least 65% of lifetime downloads occurred in the first quarter of 2022.
The app is aimed at college students with its ambassador program, and it seems to work.
Wynne Davis / NPR
Meredith Mueller is a sophomore at the University of Kansas, where she studies journalism. Mueller downloaded BeReal a few weeks ago after hearing about it from her roommate.
“I downloaded it, entered my information, and then it came up with all my contacts with people who already had this,” Mueller said. “And I thought, how have I never heard of this, and all these people in my contacts already have it?”
BeReal has quickly become one of Mueller’s favorite social media apps.
“It’s just so much fun to take a break during my day and just go down there and see exactly what people are doing at the moment, and like during their day, and where people are,” she said.
In all, Mueller said she had about 50 friends on BeReal, a much smaller number than the about 2,000 followers she has on Instagram. And unlike Instagram or Snapchat, where Mueller says there is pressure to “look good,” she believes BeReal does not have that fake feeling about it.
“Snapchat is more like sending this to one person, if you post on your story, you’re trying to look good,” she said. “While this is like … wherever you are, whatever you do, you’re stopping at the moment and all your friends can see it. It’s more like a down to earth app. I would say it’s like a judgment free zone . “
Does BeReal need to change the game?
The curation that individuals make on other social media platforms is part of what BeReal is trying to break with the lack of filters and the timestamps it has. The goal is apparently to offer a more intimate view of your life.
Chris Stedman, author of IRL: Finding our real self in a digital world, says there is a need for space where people can fail their guard and just be themselves, but he also notes that the curation of other apps is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it might just be a very human thing to do.
Stedman began working on his book after going through a difficult moment in his life, and discovered that he was not telling the story online where he was writing, as if everything was fine.
“A big part of why I wrote it is because I was trying to figure out if the Internet is a place where we can feel human,” he said. “But the thing is, there is nothing more human than curing a self that you share with the world.”
Highlights in your personal life are not new, Stedman said. Family photo albums or homemade movies from childhood are also snapshots of the best moments.
Stedman has not used BeReal, and he said he probably would not do so, but he can see why Gen Z liked the app.
“I think one of the big challenges people feel on social media is that I see everyone else’s highlights, but I experience the fullness of my own life with all the worldly things,” Stedman said. “To be able to get this reminder that everyone else’s lives are largely made up of worldly moments as well, I can certainly see some value in that.”
BeReal sounds like it would serve a similar function as some group chats Stedman already has in his life, he said. These are places where not all photos need to be polished, where friends share links and are more intimate about the details of their lives.
Overall, Stedman says that a key factor to consider when connecting with friends in DMs or on a major social platform is how exactly you do it.
“Ultimately, no matter what platform you are on, the most important thing is to be aware and aware of why you are using the platforms in the first place and what you are trying to get out of them,” says Stedman.