Tech InDepth: Meet BeReal, the most intriguing social media app in years

Social Media in 2022 has come far from its early roots and for many, it is a full-fledged business today. With the ‘life-sharing with friends’ aspect taking a backseat, modern social media via apps like Instagram and Snapchat centre around numbers and perfection.

Enter BeReal, an app with an approach that actually feels fresh, at least for now. BeReal is centred around sharing what’s been really up with your life lately and hence, doesn’t concern itself with ads, followers or any other elements that may steer the experience away from its core – sharing your daily life with friends.

The BeReal concept

Social media apps today only revolve around aspects like the number of followers, content creation and perfect selfies and pictures. The latter is especially problematic when it pushes people into portraying their best selves online, irrespective of how true or fake it is.

BeReal works differently, asking its users to quickly upload a snap of what they’re up to at any random point in the day. This could be when you’re at your work desk or when you’re boiling eggs in the kitchen or just doing laundry. That is exactly what BeReal wants you to share with your friends, not fake-candid pictures edited to perfection on multiple apps.

BeReal sends users a notification at a random time during the day. This could be 4:30 pm today or 8:00 am in the morning tomorrow. Users will then get only 2 minutes to quickly share a photo of whatever they’re doing. A snap will be captured from both the front and rear camera to get a quick yet complete glimpse into what you’re doing.

The two-minute timer is enough for you to take a good picture (or one that’s less embarrassing) but not enough to give you the luxury of perfectly lighting your shots or editing them. Basically, you will be forced to share real aspects of your life instead of curated pieces meant to be interpreted as daily life. While you can take multiple tries for a picture, your friends will be able to see the number too.

Once you post your ‘BeReal’ of the day, you will be able to see what your friends have posted as well, and once you see their post, that’s pretty much it. There are no likes, nothing to expect out of what you just posted. There are no sponsored posts/ads either.

While it originated back in 2020, BeReal is quickly gaining popularity in the west with millions of downloads, and the free app also has a rising number of installs in India right now.

Challenges to the BeReal approach

While the BeReal approach may seem better, this may not entirely be true. A key element with BeReal is to make its users feel more connected with their connections and not go through depression or loneliness when they look at other people’s seemingly-perfect lifestyles.

To maintain that, BeReal will continue to be authentic, find a formula that works and stick to it, even after it gains a lot more users than it has today. Many will remember the early years of Instagram when the whole purpose of the app was very different and far less toxic than it is today. To avoid the same trajectory, BeReal must adhere to the ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’ mantra.

BeReal lets users post just one picture per day, at a time that only the app will decide. There are no filters, and there’s no edit button. (Image Source: YouTube/ BeReal)

Another aspect is the possible downside of the random notification timer. What if users end up altering their plans significantly, all while waiting for the notification timer? If you go to the beach for a mini Instagram weekend photoshoot today, you will get there, click your pictures, and maybe edit them and post them on your way home. Imagine if you couldn’t do that because your daily notification allowance hadn’t arrived yet, subtly urging you to wait longer and longer at the beach so you can share your visit with your friends.

A final aspect is the element of discoverability. BeReal already has a ‘discover’ page that’s full of random people sharing their daily lives. It seems to be a detour from the rest of the app’s approach which is tailored around you and your close-knit group of friends. While we hope it doesn’t, this very ‘discover’ page may change how people use BeReal later on, beginning the same vicious cycle of infinite scrolling that has people addicted to platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

When you use BeReal to check on your friends, you scroll through a finite list of pictures, and when that’s done, you can exit the app and focus on the rest of your life, the one outside social media and in the real world, since there’s nothing more to hunt for in the app until the next day. However, the discover page facilitates the exact opposite of this, fueling people to scroll on and on.

BeReal is a free download on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. You can give it a spin along with your friends right now, and perhaps the app even gives you the nudge you need to get out of other, more social platforms. However, never forget that all apps are still digital, and no digital experience of friendship can be greater than meeting your near and dear ones in real life. Remember the whole purpose of social media is to bring us closer and not be a barrier or an alternative to connecting in real life.

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