No likes, filters or influencers: Millions of people are using BeReal and TikTok is trying to copy it. Is that how it works

Your “real” friends.

Not your friends after two layers of filters or after two hours of choosing which photo to post.

That is the promise of BeReal.

With no likes or followers, the French social media app has gained recognition for not relying on influencer culture, nor trying to make anyone famous or “viral”.

Released in 2020, BeReal only recently started climbing to the top of download charts across the globe.

What is BeReal?

BeReal is the brainchild of French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat, a former GoPro media producer, and Kevin Perreau.

In August, the media and information brand for the app industry, Business of Apps, reported that BeReal had 21.6 million monthly active users.

That’s a fraction of Instagram’s roughly 1 billion monthly active users.

How does it work?

Once a day, at a random time, the app notifies users that it’s “BeReal time”.

When the user opens the app, a two-minute timer appears at the top, giving them a limited amount of time to take a photo of whatever they’re doing at the time.

You could be sitting at your desk at work, walking to class, or having dinner with friends, who knows when you’ll have it.

Shot captures a photo from both the front and rear cameras, so you see what’s being framed as well as what’s behind the camera.

Photos are only shared with people you choose to follow, who also follow you.

There are also some obstacles.

It is recommended not to take a photo again. If he does, share with his friends how many reps he took.

And if you take a photo late, the app tags your photo “X hours late”.

Capitalizing on our desire to ‘join a trend’

Of all her cousins, Yasmin Sequeira, 21, was the only one who did not have BeReal.

A BeReal of Yasmin taking a photo in front of a mirror.
Yasmin has been using BeReal for over a month and hasn’t missed a day of posting. (Provided: Yasmin Sequeira)

“I downloaded BeReal to participate in a trend and be a part of something with my friends,” he told ABC News.

A few weeks after downloading it, Gen Z loved the “minimum effort” that came with the app.

“I think the reason it got the reception it did was because it stayed within your own circle and didn’t have the same appeal of needing to share with everyone,” he said.

“If BeReal became something you added everyone to, it would lose its personalized touch and probably fade away.”

An effortless glimpse into ‘the drudgery of everyday life’

University of Sydney Cyberpsychology Research Group psychologist and researcher Ashleigh King told ABC News that BeReal “offers a more balanced view of the humdrum monotony of everyday life.”

“Pictured from bedroom ceilings, bland work trips, and Netflix bingeing, BeReal feels like a welcome relief from the glamorous highlight reels featured on other platforms.”

RMIT University Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Dr. Torgeir Aleti, researches the impacts of social media use on consumers and relationships.

“It seems to be feeding into the ‘Finsta’ trend: Instagram accounts created for smaller, closed communities of users to share content privately rather than publicly,” he told ABC News.

“People find BeReal attractive because it promotes itself as a contrast to other apps that are often seen as competition for fame and followers.”

TikTok launched an almost identical feature to BeReal and users are not impressed

On September 16, TikTok US announced the launch of TikTok Now.

Promotional images of a new feature on the social media app TikTok, called TikTok Now

“You will receive a daily prompt to capture a 10-second video or still photo,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Similar to BeReal’s daily prompt, “It’s time for BeReal,” TikTok’s notification is “Time for now.”

Mrs. King says that this act of cloning should surprise no one.

“TikTok is seeing the growing popularity of BeReal and wants to preserve its user base by offering similar features,” King told ABC News.

“This is exactly what we saw with the introduction of ‘Stories’ for Instagram and Facebook, which followed quickly after the rise of Snapchat.”

Can social networks be truly ‘authentic’?

Two minutes to abandon all aesthetics and possibilities to retouch your appearance is enough to make many young people sweat.

But this is what it means to be authentic, right?

“Authenticity is a difficult construct to capture,” said Ms. King.

“I believe that being ‘authentic’ online involves sharing more than the highlight reel of our lives, and instead offering a richer portrait of the experiences and moments that shape us.”

No matter how hard she tries to be, Yasmin doesn’t think social media can be truly authentic.

A BeReal of Yasmin sitting in front of her open laptop on her desk
Yasmin considered only submitting BeReal examples where she’s doing something funny, defeating the purpose of “being real.”(Provided: Yasmin Sequeira)

“These apps are created by a team of designers who know how to target people and keep them engaged,” he said.

“I think the most important thing to recognize is that platforms like Snapchat and Instagram were once authentic and honest before the world started using them and monetizing them.

The same could happen with BeReal.”

Dr. Aleti says that BeReal users can bypass its timer feature by posting outside the two-minute window.

“Some users may seem authentic and spontaneous, but it could be a staged situation,” he said.

Is BeReal holding a digital mirror?

Due to the unique nature of BeReal, some find that they do not get “addicted” to it.

“You barely spend any time on the app because once you see your BeReals friends and comment or react, there is literally nothing else to do,” said Yasmin.

“But maybe that’s a good thing?”

Ms. King says that people use social media to learn, create, relax and be entertained.

But what BeReal has to offer is only a fraction of this.

“It offers limited capacity to meet some of these needs, so you may need to expand your offering if you want to maintain interest and relevance,” he said.

“But if they changed it for this reason, would that make it Less Real?”

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