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November 11, 2022

Two minutes. 

At a random time once a day, this rising social media app sends a simultaneous notification to all its users, prompting them to snap a post within the app’s two-minute countdown. These posts capture views from both front and back cameras; they show what users look like as well as what they’re doing.  Pets, projects, Wawa snacks, TV shows, blurry morning faces, late-night smiles, or the occasional photo of a friend’s reunion with an ex—this is BeReal, the latest platform that GenZ has been loving for its ability to capture authenticity. 

BeReal describes itself as “a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.” Some celebrities or public figures have made accounts, but it’s ultimately designed for a user’s most intimate circle to share and interact with “real” content. Authenticity is in, and while I don’t think brands should get on the platform, everyone can learn a lesson from BeReal’s success. 

So, how does it work?

Posting Fundamentals

The goal with BeReal: make a post on your first attempt to take a photo as soon as the notification is sent out. If you miss the window, you can make a “late” post at any time between the original notification and the next day’s notification. Customize your post by adding a caption. You can also share your post to other platforms, or delete a post if need be. Just note that unless you publish a post, you can’t view what any of your friends have posted in the BeReal feed. 

With posts from the following day disappearing once the new notification drops, your BeReal feed is refreshed daily. The posts you make are kept in an archive on the app which you can view in this cute calendar format: 

Feed Dynamics

Within the BeReal feed, you can scroll through your friends’ posts or look at a discovery page with posts from users all over the world. You can comment on other posts or react to them with what BeReal calls “Realmojis.” Realmojis are selfies you take in reaction to posts that show up alongside a post, similar to likes or reactions on Facebook. When viewing BeReals, you can tap between the front and back camera captures of a post to get a closer look at your friends and what they’re seeing. 

BeReal Etiquette and Words of Wisdom

  • While it is a “live-in-the-moment” app, it’s common practice to ask friends if they would like to be in your BeReal and give them a heads-up that you’re taking it.  
  • You can retake your BeReal post as many times as you want (within the two-minute window of the notification or of opening the app to post late). But be warned: your friends can see how many times you retake. Save yourself from potential judgment and don’t “BeFake.” (Or, don’t be like our very own Blaster—Creative Producer Colin.)
@_meanmommy

I’m still new to @bereal

♬ original sound – _meanmommy

  • Posts show your location and they will appear on the Discovery page for public viewing unless otherwise disabled or removed. Be safe!
  • Friends are mutually agreed upon—people who have added you and you have accepted. Vice versa.
  • You can’t screenshot posts sneakily. BeReal will show the screenshot-ee the screenshot-er’s username, so stalk (and send to the group chat) at your own risk.
  • The app isn’t too saturated yet, so claim a funny username while you can!

Lingo Cheat Sheet

BeReal– (noun) refers to both the app and the post. 

Example: “I just downloaded BeReal”, “Did you see her BeReal today?”

Realmoji– (noun) the selfie icon created when you react to a BeReal, could also say “reaction”

Example: “Your Realmoji/reaction made me laugh”

“____ posted a late”– notification from BeReal when someone posts after the first notification is sent out 

Example: “ChatterBlast posted a late”

Why does Gen Z love it?

BeReal provides users with a way to keep up with friends and family and see the unfiltered and mundane moments in their lives. It’s less about numbers and more about interaction. Sometimes, it’s actually quite boring. VICE Staff Writer Katie Way writes, “[BeReal] is transcendently fun because it is deeply mundane—the contradiction that makes it the only good social media platform.” The content isn’t intrinsically engaging, and it doesn’t aim to be. The app will have you wondering throughout the day when the notification will drop, but with such a short, finite feed of select friends, BeReal isn’t ridiculously time-devouring in the way that Instagram or TikTok are. 

Despite its lack of an addicting algorithm, BeReal has quickly fostered a community on and off the platform as users meme-ify or make ironic takes on the app experience. 

As the rise of the “photo dump” indicates, Gen Z is shifting towards imperfect social media. Less Photoshop and Facetune, more candid pictures and authenticity. We want social media to seem more like real life. This shift is largely positive, save for some concern about how beneficial this curated authenticity actually is. What sets BeReal apart from “Casual Instagram” (and its photo dumps, Finsta accounts, etc.) is that the playing field is level. The format and the notification are the same for all users. This is a big change for social media users who have grown used to seeing celebrities and influencers play the game with unattainable skills. Sloppy, mundane, authentic—BeReal feels like a revival of the early (and fun!) days of social media, the kind that the digital generation grew up with. 

What does it mean for the future of social media?

Honestly, in the time between starting to write this blog and finishing it, BeReal has already lost some of its sparkle for me. Before, it was truly for the three friends I could convince to download it. Now, I absolutely use it “wrong.” I frequently see BeReal posts reshared on TikTok or Instagram, I’ll get the notification and ignore it, and I post to a friends list that includes former classmates, my dad, my brother’s ex-girlfriend, etc. 

Rhetorically speaking, can social media ever be real? Do we even want to expose our most authentic selves online? Is BeReal the only exception? Unless you’re morally dedicated to the cause of curated authenticity, it’s likely that your BeReal account may end up like mine: not very intimate, not very active. It’s fun to snap a post every once in a while, but as more and more people download the app, BeReal’s unique intimacy fades and the platform becomes a victim of its own success. 

Further, with no trademarked technology or incoming ad revenue, BeReal is highly susceptible to copying. As Instagram shifts into… whatever Instagram is trying to shift into, I think it’s likely the platform will find a way to “give the people what they want” by fully tackling and replacing BeReal. In fact, it’s already been copied by Instagram and TikTok, who have launched features like “IG Candid” and “TikTok Now” to mimic the urgency and dual-camera format of BeReal. 

While I’d argue there’s virtually no chance that BeReal will become the next social media giant as it grows less intimate and less unique, there’s something to be said for the audience its boring, mundane content amassed. Meta’s platforms have mainly moved in favor of viral content over social content in light of TikTok’s success, but its users are uploading casual “photo dumps” and demanding social media executives “Make Instagram, Instagram Again.” BeReal’s slate of 21.6 million monthly active users is just another wake-up call. 

On that basis, brands could shed a layer on social media. Don’t be afraid to save the corporate jargon for B2B communication—reach for the heartstrings, tickle some funnybones! Authentic content is one of the best ways to interact with your audience because it’s what they’re actively (and avidly) engaging with online. Less stock photos, more BeingReal. The platform might not stick around, but BeReal’s success signifies what people seriously miss: a social media that’s social and not just media. 

About the Author

Emily Farrell

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