New social platform pushes users to BeReal-er

Jia Coffou was among thousands of young adults who heard the question in June:

“Do you have BeReal? »

“My friend literally forced me to download it,” she said.

At first, Coffou didn’t understand the value of the app, but now she uses it regularly.

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BeReal is a new photo-sharing app that capitalizes on the “casual” social media trend.

Once a day, users receive a “time sensitive” push notification telling them “It’s time to be real”. After that, they have two minutes to open the app and take a photo. The app takes a photo with the front and back camera of everything the user does: lying in bed, using the bathroom, skydiving, etc.

The app is out of control. You can post late, but that tells your followers how late late. It’s also completely transparent — all your friends can see how many times you’ve retaken the photo.

Hannah was hiking with friends when she received the notification to post. Photo courtesy of Hannah Cree.

Users can comment or react to photos with custom emojis that BeReal calls RealMoji. Another option is Instant RealMoji, which captures a real-time photo of your face and places it at the bottom of the BeReal in a small circle.

In June, the app recorded 2.37 million downloads, putting it just two places behind Instagram in Statistica’s top 10 non-gaming iPhone apps for the month. By early August, the app had 73.5 million active users, according to Application Companythat tracks apps.

The company is open about wanting to be different from influencer culture. A press release described the platform as “a place where real life is captured, free from the need to create, cultivate and accumulate influence.”

Yotam Shmargad, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy, said BeReal could point to a new model of social platform development that he calls “mindful attention.”

“BeReal and social games like Wordle use scarcity as a selling point,” Shmargad said. “It’s something that takes up a very limited part of your day. It’s a habit, but there are safeguards against spending too much time with the app. »

The stream is short – unlike Instagram’s recommended posts or TikTok’s endless For You page, you can’t scroll continuously on BeReal. The number of posts on your feed is limited to the number of friends you’ve added, and you can only post once per day.

The rise of attention-limited apps like BeReal comes after two years of COVID-19 life, which has left many experiencing social media fatigue.

According to Shmargad, being online is “no longer something you do, but something you are”.

“Maybe that’s one of the reasons people love BeReal so much, that it’s not trying to suck your whole life off the internet,” he said.

However, experts like Shmargad raise questions about authenticity as a marketing strategy.

“As soon as there is a popular notion of being authentic and being yourself, mass marketing will take over,” he said.

BeReal’s limited amount of content also doesn’t seem compatible with the legacy social media revenue model that relies on consistent scrolling for ad exposure.

Users like Coffou say that not everyone plays with the “unfiltered” aspect of BeReal.

“Some people intentionally wait to post their BeReal until they go out or do something fun,” she said.

BeReal has not yet been monetized, so it is difficult to determine long-term goals for the company, according to Shmargad. As to whether social media could evolve into a more attention-aware model, he says it’s too early to tell.

Although a 2022 Pew Research study found that Facebook usage has dropped 39% among teens since 2015, Instagram still remains popular, with 62% of the age group reporting using it.

For now, BeReal serves as a companion to legacy social media.

“I feel like people aren’t going to give up on Instagram,” Coffou said. “I see it as kind of an outlet, like ‘hey, I have Instagram, but I also want you to see me in a more laid-back light. “”

BeReal is available for download on Android and Apple devices.


*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.