The appeal of BeReal


Catherine Gregson explores why this new social media app is so appealing to Gen Z

Article Image

Image by BeReal.

By Catherine Gregson

When I was first asked to download ‘BeReal’ by my friends a couple of months ago I was sceptical. I didn’t feel  inclined to register with another social media platform where I feel I have to portray a certain image of myself to my followers. However, through their powers of persuasion (and peer pressure) I eventually came around to the idea of it, under the pretence that I could just add my closer friends on it, so I wouldn’t care what I posted as much.

‘BeReal’ was released as an app in 2020, yet there has been a significant increase in the number of downloads since early 2022. When a user creates an account,they are sent a notification once a day asking them to take a picture of whatever they’re doing in a two-minute time slot. This notification is sent at a randomly allocated time each day, so users have no idea when they will be sent the notification: it could be at 9am or 10pm. This plays into the ‘real’ aspect of it, since people cannot plan to be doing something ‘exciting’, or to alter their appearance (which would typically earn them a higher number of likes on Instagram), in preparation for the notification.

When taking the ‘BeReal’, both sides of the camera are in operation so that the user’s ‘friends’ can see the user and what they’re doing at that point in the day. Once the ‘BeReal’ is uploaded, your ‘friends’ can comment on the post and also have the option of adding a ‘RealMoji’ which is a picture they’ve taken of themselves, in conjunction with an emoji. If the user misses the two-minute mark of the daily ‘BeReal’ notification, then they have the option to post a ‘late’, which their ‘friends’ can be notified of.

In my experience of the app, there is far less pressure to tailor how your life appears, when compared with social media apps such as Instagram. On Instagram it’s easy to forget that users can spend hours carefully picking which photos to upload, in accordance with how they want people to perceive their lives. Not to mention, the filters people use, the photo editing apps and cropping that is all meticulously carried out before some users are satisfied with the final show.

On ‘BeReal’, there is no way of predicting when you will receive that notification. Every day, I view uploads of my friends with no make-up on as they are writing an essay, making lunch, on a car journey; more often than not, what is captured on this app is people going about their often mundane daily life tasks. There is no pressure to receive hundreds of ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ either; people don’t upload for the validation, they are uploading to stay in contact with their friends.

When I asked my friends for their opinions on ‘BeReal’ they said, “it’s relaxed… you can take funny selfies and not care”, “you only have a small group of your close friends, so you don’t really care when you just look normal or you’re in bed… unlike when you’re trying to put an image out on social media”. Users can be selective about who they choose to add on the app, so they feel less pressure about what others think and are able to be more authentic on it. Additionally, on ‘BeReal’ you are unable to view how many ‘friends’ other users have so there is no pressure to have a huge ‘following’, like there is on Instagram. Others commented, “it gives a sense of connection because you are all posting at the same time” and “it’s positive and fun”. On Instagram, some users have a tendency to compare their lives with the carefully edited versions of other people’s they can view. However, with ‘BeReal’ this isn’t the case.

The only potential downsides to the app are that users might compare how many RealMojis and comments they receive on their uploads with others, leading them to believe that they have less friends than that user. Moreover, you don’t have the option to block people on ‘BeReal’, so you can still view people you dislike commenting and reacting to others' uploads, even if you haven’t added them. The two-minute window doesn’t stop people from posting ‘late’ either, therefore some people may choose to wait until they’re doing something more ‘exciting’ to upload. This means it could be used in a similar manner to how some people use Instagram stories. However, I think if the app was to restrict people to only being able to post in the two-minute time slot, it would be too restrictive and would deter people from the app. Realistically, only a small percentage of users manage to post their ‘BeReal’ within that time window daily, since no one is staring at their phone all day, and thus able to react to the notification as soon as it appears. A more practical solution could be forcing users to post within a half an hour/ hour time window. This would maintain the app’s ethos, yet still be realistic for most people’s phone usage.

Despite this, I think the appeal for ‘BeReal’ exists because it’s a refreshing space, compared to other social media apps. It’s a relaxed, fun way for people to be able to stay in contact with their friends across the country and see what they’re up to each day. Generation Z are tired with the phoniness of Instagram – they’re craving something real, and ‘BeReal’ is the answer to that.