A hit on social media, but how real is it, really?

Social media has become a chore for many of us these days.

With targeted ads constantly harassing us on the internet, CEOs posting cringe-worthy updates on LinkedIn and Facetune filtering us into oblivion, online communities have become a bit of a drag.

Let’s be honest: Facebook is almost exclusively used by people you went to high school with and family members you barely talk to. Instagram and Tiktok are places to scroll through videos of people you’ve never met, and Twitter is now Elon Musk’s dumpster fire.

In this social media wasteland, BeReal has emerged as a potential silver lining.

The French app bills itself as “the easiest photo sharing app” that lets you connect candidly with your friends, #nofilter.

Every day, the app sends users a notification at a random time. You have two minutes to take a picture of what you’re doing, using your phone’s front and back cameras simultaneously.

The result looks like this:

Anca Ulea / BeReal

Yes, I downloaded this app for this article. Please don’t follow me. I have nothing interesting to say, I promise. – Anca Ulea / BeReal

The app allows users to post after the specified window of 2 minutes, but you cannot see any of your friends’ posts until you post yourself, and your friends will be notified if you post late.

The idea is that you should share insight into your real life. And it’s an argument that has proven itself over the past year.

In October, the BeReal app had been downloaded 53 million times, compared to just over 7 million in April. The app has 10 million daily users.

BeReal has particularly struck a chord with younger users, becoming a Gen Z favorite early on.

“Nothing stressful about it”

Kylie Goodrich started using BeReal in April, but says she didn’t start using it every day until she arrived in Milan this fall for her semester abroad.

The 21-year-old is a student at Purdue University in the United States. She told Euronews Culture that she uses BeReal to keep in touch with her friends but also to keep track of what she has been up to.

“My favorite thing about BeReal is that it’s basically a snapshot of your day, so I can always look back and see what I was doing. For me, it’s like a digital diary,” she said. “I feel like everyone is themselves on BeReal and there’s nothing stressful about it.”

Goodrich also uses Twitter and Instagram, but says she likes BeReal because there’s no option to edit her post to “perfect” it.

“It’s fun to see people doing mundane things and sometimes someone’s crazy BeReal, like diving off a cliff,” she said. “I love using BeReal while studying abroad as it is a very unique documentation of my experience.”

Kylie Goodrich / Be Real

Kylie Goodrich, 21, says she loves BeReal because she can keep track of what she’s been up to. -Kylie Goodrich / BeReal

The app is also gaining traction with millennials, though many of them don’t like to admit they’re on it.

A Euronews colleague I spoke to in the background of this article said that many people cheat on the app, taking their photo late to make their posts more interesting.

“Last night my BeReal notification came around 11pm and I was having a tough day so I decided to post just tomorrow,” she said. “That’s one of the downsides of the app, it’s not always real.”

No advertising or data collection

Although not 100% real, BeReal is 100% ad-free, at least for now.

The app’s terms of service prohibit users from using it “for any advertising or commercial purposes” or “collecting information, data, or content about other users without their permission.”

BeReal founders Alexis Barreyat and Kevin Perreau have kept a low profile and haven’t given many hints about the app’s future monetization.

But the Financial Times reported that BeReal is considering paid subscriptions or features, instead of inundating users with advertisements like its competitors.

Contacted by Euronews Culture, a company representative said that BeReal was not doing interviews at the moment.

If the company’s origin story is any indication, BeReal will do its best to avoid turning the app into another ad factory.

He states that BeReal “is a place where real life is captured, without the need to create, cultivate and accumulate influence”.

For its many users, this is a welcome relief.

A quiet place on social media

Sophie Bennett, a marketing professional in Toronto, told Euronews Culture that BeReal is “the only social media platform that feels like a natural way to connect with my friends.”

BeReal / Sophie Bennett

Sophie Bennett, 33, says BeReal feels like the only social media platform where she can naturally connect with friends. – BeReal / Sophie Bennett

Bennett, 33, has been using the app for about 3 months and says she posts pretty much daily.

Having worked in social media content creation, she says many platforms feel very organized and business-related.

Comparatively, BeReal cuts through all that noise.

“You know when you get the insane scrolling on any other app? You don’t get that with BeReal,” she said. “My group of people that I follow is still quite small, so I’ll be on it for a maximum of 10 minutes.

While users can comment on or react to others’ posts, there is no feature to view posts from previous days, which limits the time users can spend on the app.

“There’s not much to digest, so most of the time you’re going in and out, which is really, really nice,” Bennett said.

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