At 9:12 PM on a Sunday, a notification shows up on my phone screen: “Time to BeReal. 2 mins left to capture a BeReal and see what your friends are up to!”
The notification popped up as I was lying in bed, scrolling through my phone. My two-way picture turns out wonky: On the front-facing selfie side, my face is distorted. On the other camera side, my BeReal friends can catch a glimpse my plain white ceiling… enticing!
BeReal is the social media app that is considered to be an authentic alternative to the social media we’ve been conditioned to – also known as the “anti-Instagram.” It sends a push notification once a day, at a random time, and users have two minutes to take a dual-camera picture with their phone’s front- and back cameras. There are no reposts or likes – but there are “real” reactions in the form of – you guessed it: selfies.
BeReal is hard to define IRL, and on social
It’s not just me and my lackluster life that’s the issue. Everyone else I follow on the app seems to go through this, too. I see a lot of messy bedrooms, computer screens, and—less frequently—Instagram-like selfies of someone walking on a picturesque street.
BeReal arrived as a referendum on Instagram’s and TikTok’s highly curated content and algorithm-driven feeds. The app reintroduced casualness, patience, and scarcity, which have largely been discarded by competitors. But the authenticity it promised is subject to debate.
Realness is hard to define IRL, let alone on social media.
For BeReal, authenticity is synonymous with novelty. It’s a strategic move for the company to be able to distance itself from the value proposition of Instagram and TikTok. But it still hasn’t found its way to monetizing the app, and no one knows how long it will stay ad-free and influencer-free. BeReal’s promise of being real may become less about authenticity and more about profit. That might drive away the teens and twenty somethings that make up its user base—they certainly won’t stay if the platform isn’t fresh. And it’s hard to make a stream of Sunday night selfies from bed and poorly lit blank walls interesting.
Do you use BeReal? Do you come back to the app for the authenticity factor, or something different?
Tell me on Twitter.
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