Written by Abby Reed, Media Analytics Executive
The social media app BeReal, which was originally released in 2020, rose to popularity this past summer. By the end of July, there were 21.6 million active BeReal users. Once per day, the app sends a notification telling users it is “Time to BeReal” and share a photo of what they are doing at that moment.
BeReal is marketed as a place to be your authentic self. Unlike other social media platforms, there are no editing or filter functions on the app. The time limit feature on BeReal only allows you two minutes to capture a photo once you open the app. The time restriction is likely intended to make it harder for users to stage photos.
So, the app should be a place where everyone is 100% real, right? Well, that’s not exactly the case.
The app still has loopholes that can allow users to be less authentic.
One of these loopholes is the ability for users to post past the notification time. BeReal doesn’t prevent users from posting late. You have the rest of the day after the notification and often part of the following day to post. This ability can prompt people to wait until a better moment in their day to snap a photo. It gives people time to strategize the photo and stage content.
The freedom to post late on BeReal can easily turn someone’s account into a highlight reel.
Toxic traits of other social media platforms are still present on BeReal; they just might not be as obvious. One of these traits is comparison. You could think your life is dull compared to your friends’ lives which seem more glamorous because of the BeReals they are sharing. There is also the ability to react and comment on BeReal posts. This feature could cause some users to compare the number of reactions their post receives to a friend's post and as a result, have self-deprecating thoughts. As seen on other social media platforms, comparing yourself to what others post has negative mental health impacts.
So far this blog is talking about the negative qualities of BeReal, however, I don’t think the platform is all bad.
The intimacy of the app can keep you connected to long-distance friends. I personally downloaded the app before coming back to college, so I could stay more connected to my hometown friends.
A negative aspect of many social media platforms is their addictive nature, which BeReal avoids through its structure. Since the app only allows you to post once per day, and everyone gets the notification simultaneously, users are not as likely to frequently check the app as the circulation of new content is less immediate compared to interfaces like Instagram.
On Instagram, you are able to continuously refresh your feed and the algorithm will present you with new posts every time. Most of the people I know using BeReal are only following their close friends on the app, which reduces the time they spend scrolling through their feeds.
BeReal is a good attempt at switching the social media narrative from staged content to candid content and combating the negative qualities of other social networks. However, users should beware that the app is not a fix to all of social media’s problems.