What Is the New Social Media App ‘BeReal’ (and Do You Really Want to Be Real)?

What Is the New Social Media App ‘BeReal’ (and Do You Really Want to Be Real)?
Photo: redart14, Shutterstock

There are always new social media platforms launching, but few have the staying power of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Truth Social, WhatsApp, and Telegram. Each day seemingly promises us some new platform, most of which we ignore or maybe use for a brief time before ultimately ignoring; others have their time to shine but eventually fizzle out. (Pour one out for Bebo, MySpace, Friendster, Google+, and Parler.)

One new-ish app is receiving some positive attention right now, though: BeReal, according to Apptopia, has been steadily racking up downloads since December and, per Axios, is “Gen Z’s new favourite app.” Fine, but what the hell is it — and will it be your “new favourite app” any time soon?

What is BeReal?

BeReal, according to its website, is “a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.” It officially launched in December 2019, but has only exploded in growth in recent months.

It works like this: Every day at a different time, users get a push notification from the app. They have exactly two minutes to open BeReal and snap a picture of what they’re doing. The app activates both the front and back cameras on a user’s phone, so actually, the person takes two photos, which are uploaded simultaneously. The daily post is itself, unfortunately, called “a BeReal.”

You may scroll through the BeReals posted by your friends to see their largely mundane activities, which makes this a much different experience from scrolling through Instagram, where users have a tendency to upload the very best pictures of themselves at the very coolest moments in their lives.

I am field-testing BeReal for you (no need to thank me) and can share that so far, I have seen gym selfies, work selfies, and selfies that demonstrate my friends are watching television. So far, no one has been doing anything particularly cool, which is refreshing, but could ultimately lead me away from the app. At the heart of this feed-scrolling is the question, Who cares?

A few other things to know about BeReal

In addition to its tricky two-minute allowance for posts, there are three major features — or lacks-thereof — to be aware of. The first is that BeReal does not give you any photo editing capabilities whatsoever. You use your camera, cannot access VR filters, and cannot spice the post up in any way before or after you publish it. If you look frazzled on a given day, that’s too damn bad. You have to be real. You can, however, retake a picture set before you blast it out to your friends (and, if you choose, a wider audience via the “Discovery” tab, but toggling that on is totally optional). Be warned, though, that the app tells your friends how many times you retook the pictures. Is it real enough for you yet?

The second notable thing about BeReal is that you cannot see your friends’ BeReals until you post your own. You can’t lurk or creep and must instead actively participate. This could actually be the app’s most significant departure from Instagram, even beyond the lack of photo-editing and curation. Think of how many followers you have on the ‘gram who never post and rarely interact with your content, but are somehow always looking at your Stories. On BeReal, looky-loos have to pay to play, basically.

Finally, you can react to friends’ BeReals with something called “RealMoji.” There is an option for a thumbs-up, a grinning face, a shocked face, an unimpressed face, a flustered face, and a laughing-crying face. The thing is, though, that you have to take a photo of yourself making the corresponding expression in order to use it to respond to a post. You can also opt for a real-time RealMoji that captures your countenance in that moment. Similarly to when you append an emoji response to someone’s Facebook status, your RealMoji will appear along the bottom of your friend’s post, but, again, it is literally a little photo of your face.

What happens if you don’t post your BeReal in the allotted two-minute window?

If you get your daily alert that it’s time to post your BeReal and you don’t do it… nothing happens. There is no streak to lose, no penalty to incur, and no real notable event triggered by your laziness or disinterest. Your BeReal will note, however, that you posted “late.” It will even disclose how late you were, whether by one minute or 17 hours.

You also get push notifications when your friends share their BeReals. Those who don’t post during the two-minute period are called out by the push notifications themselves, which let you know the person in question did not comply in time. This is a little stressful.

According to Google, “What happens if you miss a BeReal?” is one of the most commonly asked questions about the app. The others include “What is BeReal?” and “What is the point of BeReal?” Those are kind of sad, but Googling them probably brought you to this explainer; since you’re here, this is the answer to the other most Googled question, which is whether BeReal is available on Android: Yes, it is.

Whom is this app for?

Axios says the app appeals to Gen Z, and according to Apptopia, active users have grown 315% year-to-date. In 2022, Apptopia says, the app has seen 65% of its lifetime downloads, which the data company attributes to word of mouth on college campuses, as well as press coverage.

Citing data from data.ai, Axios also pointed out that BeReal ranked fourth in downloads in the United States, the United Kingdom, and its home country of France in the first quarter of this year, following Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Gen Z is “most likely” to use the app, per that data, but “a large chunk” of the user base is made up of millennials. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, your parents have not yet stolen this from you — but we all know how this will inevitably end, which is with your precious mother spamming up your comments and RealMojis.

Do you need BeReal on your phone?

Sure, why not? BeReal is the Wordle of social media apps in that you really only have to engage with it briefly once per day, so you’re not sucked up into it in the same way you are with, say, Twitter or Instagram. Plus, it’s kind of nice (for now) to see your friends looking raggedy, which is an in-person privilege usually reserved for when you see each other in the comfort of your own homes.

If it’s helpful, you can delete Dispo to make space for BeReal. That app, which also launched in December 2019, was similarly intended to give users the chance to share one real-time shot with friends per day but, unlike App Store unicorn BeReal, is no longer cool.

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