Another year and another new social media craze to fight for our attention. BeReal is an app created by a French social media startup that is currently topping app stores worldwide.
It has now been downloaded over 20 million times and continues to gain popularity, but what is BeReal, and does it have a future?
BeReal is a photo-sharing app with a twist. You get a notification at a different time each day and you then have two minutes to share whatever you are doing at that particular moment by taking a picture on your phone with both your front and back camera.
Most people choose to just share these photos with their friends, but there is also a Discovery feed where you can see pictures from people around the world. You can only view other people’s photos for 24 until the next one replaces it, although you can see your past photos in your calendar.
You can comment on your friends’ photos as you would with a normal photo-sharing app. You can also react with ‘RealMojis’ which allows you to take selfies to express how you feel about your friend’s post.
BeReal bills itself as the “Anti-Instagram” app – encouraging people to post as they are without filters, editing, posing and careful planning of what content to show the world.
It does have a certain nostalgia for the “good old days” when people would post anything and everything on social media without caring about it being perfect. It reflects a push towards a ‘less curated’ side of social media – making it fun again rather than it being an additional pressure in our daily lives.
Simply put, it wants us to be more real and promises authenticity online.
This is a similar trend to the one we’ve seen with growing calls for a new iteration of the world wide web – there is a nostalgia for the freedom and democracy of the early days of the web, as we explore in our blog on Web3.
Another way it can be considered ‘anti-Instagram’ is that it doesn’t encourage endless scrolling or tempt you to stay on the app for long periods of time. You tend to log on once a day to post your BeReal, see your friends’ updates, react to them and then it’s all over.
However, one feature that potentially goes against BeReal’s central goal and USP of being a more realistic social media platform is the fact that you can still post your photo late to the app and it doesn’t really mean anything. All it does is let your friends know that you have posted late, but there are no other repercussions.
Therefore, people can simply wait until they are doing something more interesting or wearing a better outfit before posting.
Plus, that nostalgia for the days of posting all sorts rather than a curated feed raises another complaint – it quickly gets boring to see people posting the same sorts of photos from their house or workplace.
That’s why many think BeReal could be a fad that won’t last long.
In the meantime, however, it has become a source for memes on many other platforms such as TikTok and Twitter, with the iconic “Time to BeReal” notification the source of many jokes. But again, is this just the latest joke that will soon pass?
It’s time to ⚠️BeReal⚠️ pic.twitter.com/ttw9PDPmYc
— zach silberberg (@zachsilberberg) July 19, 2022
Another interesting point of difference for BeReal is that it’s hard to see how social media influencers would make it work to their advantage. In fact, the app description reads “BeReal won’t make you famous. If you want to become an influencer you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”
It has been designed against influencers, instead encouraging normal people to share about their daily lives rather than becoming overrun with #ads.
Despite its anti-influencer rhetoric, established Instagram and TikTok influencers are already jumping on the hype and sharing their BeReal photos on those platforms, so they can’t fully escape it!
BeReal has grown in popularity and has recently been valued at $600 million.
At the moment, the business is not making money as it is being financed by outside investors. However this is unlikely to work in the long term and they will need to work out a way to turn a profit, which is where they could stumble.
It’s currently hard to see how adverts would be integrated within the BeReal feed, but many other social media apps have managed it, so it is probably not beyond the realm of possibility.
Many other social media apps have focused on growing a loyal following for a few months or even years, before introducing ads as a way to monetise the platform so we could see this in BeReal’s future. This would somewhat go against their goal for online authenticity but also seems inevitable!
A subscription model is another possibility but is highly unlikely as people are reluctant to pay when using social media platforms.
Even if they start running adverts, they could struggle to become profitable, much like Snapchat’s parent company Snap which is currently experiencing problems with revenue sources. This could have an impact on how long the success of the app will last.
We’re in an age where many fads last just a few weeks or months (note Wordle and all the many spin-offs that followed it) and many have been wondering whether BeReal has any longevity.
This is especially true as the app has been experiencing glitches and instances of crashing, where users are unable to upload their photos as quickly as the app demands. For a modern audience with a short attention span – this is a problem.
Couple that with the inevitable boredom people will get from posting endless pictures of their lunch or them sat at their desk and there is a lot to suggest it might fizzle out.
BeReal does bring something new to the world of social media which is fun to experience, but whether it has the staying power like Facebook and Instagram, or the ability to capitalise on creating an app that Gen Z is addicted to like TikTok has, remains to be seen.