BeReal is a French social media app that was developed by Alexis Barreyat and Kevin Perreau and was first released in 2020. Initially, the app was not well known, but it gained widespread popularity in early and mid-2022. BeReal is a platform that emphasizes authenticity and encourages users to upload unpolished photos. Its name is a pun on the term b-reel, and it encourages its users to “show their friends who they really are, for once,” by removing filters and opportunities to stage or edit photos.
As of late August 2022, BeReal has over 10 million active daily users and 21.6 million active monthly users. The application has received $30 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Accel in April 2022, and in May 2022, it secured $85 million in a funding round led by Yuri Milner’s DST Global, increasing its valuation to about $600 million. With its popularity, other providers have launched similar features. In July 2022 Instagram launched a “Dual Camera” feature similar to BeReal, and in August 2022 began testing a similar feature called “IG Candid Challenges” where users are prompted to post once a day within two minutes. As of September 2022, TikTok has also launched a feature called TikTok Now, following the same concept.
Daily BeReal notification
Once per day, BeReal sends a notification to all users that a two-minute window to post is open. Users are asked to create a post known as a “BeReal” that provides a visual depiction of what they are doing at that moment using mandatory simultaneous photos from both the front and back cameras.
The given window for posting a BeReal varies from day to day and is not known to users before the notification is received. Users cannot see any of the current day’s BeReals until they upload their own. While on-time BeReals show the time they were uploaded, late BeReals uploaded after the two-minute window only show how late the poster is.
No filters or editing
BeReal does not allow any photo filters or other editing, which emphasizes authenticity and minimizes the idealization of people’s lives.
No follower counts
The app has no follower counts, which de-emphasizes social media popularity and promotes a more equal experience for all users.
BeReal features a “Discovery” section where users are given the option to share their BeReals to a much wider public audience. However, users are not able to interact with the posts through commenting, unlike the “My Friends” feature.
Limited deletion and reposting
Users only get one chance to delete their BeReal and post another one, and they cannot post more than one at any time.
Other users can see the location where the BeReal was taken, which promotes transparency and location-based interactions.
No explicit image moderation
BeReal does not have an explicit image moderation process and does not restrict users from posting inappropriate photos. However, there is a report function that allows users to report a photo or another user if they are posting inappropriate content.
BeReal is considered to be targeted toward Generation Z users and attempts to minimize “social media fatigue,” a feeling of numbness and disconnection from reality caused by constant interaction with an idealized version of others. BeReal has been described as designed to compete with Instagram, while simultaneously de-emphasizing social media addiction and overuse. The app does not try to glamorize the banality of life, but instead, it emphasizes authenticity and tries to provide a space where users can be themselves.
Critics of BeReal have noted its emphasis on authenticity, which some felt crossed the line into mundanity.
Jason Koebler, a writer for Vice, wrote that in contrast to Instagram, which presents an unattainable view of people’s lives, BeReal instead “makes everyone look extremely boring.”
Niklas Myhr, a professor of social media at Chapman University, argued that depth of engagement may determine whether the app is a passing trend or has “staying power.”
Kelsey Weekman, a reporter for BuzzFeed News, noted that the app’s unwillingness to “glamorize the banality of life” made it feel “humbling” in its emphasis on authenticity.