It’s Time to BeReal: The Rise of BeReal
BeReal was launched in 2019 by French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, but it has really only just started gaining traction.
“Make Instagram Instagram again” was a plea shared by Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner in late July and August when the app trialled a full-screen feature in an attempt to lure back some of its users from the app that only grows more popular by the day, TikTok. Millions of users shared the post, displaying a clear dislike for the changes being implemented by Instagram. Yet the notion of Instagram copying another social media app is neither something new nor something that it seems like they will stop doing anytime soon.
Stories and AR selfie filters from Snapchat, Reels from TikTok, and now Dual from BeReal; Instagram is notorious for stealing features from other popular apps and integrating them into its own layout.
While Instagram is known for its ruthless copycat strategy, even social media giant TikTok has shamelessly copied BeReal by introducing a ‘Time to Now’ feature. But what exactly is it about BeReal that has other apps so quick to follow suit?
What is BeReal?
BeReal was launched in 2019 by French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, but it has really only just started gaining traction in the second half of 2022 after hitting some viral moments on TikTok. With 21.6 million monthly active users in August, it has only a fraction of Instagram's 1 billion monthly users, yet it is rapidly growing in popularity.
Sold to a mainly Gen Z audience as an ‘anti-social media’, BeReal has amassed a young audience of users who just want to keep up with their friends without the filters and social hierarchy that makes up a large portion of other social media platforms.
How does it work?
Once a day, at a random time, BeReal notifies its users that it’s “Time to BeReal”.
Once the app is opened, a 2 minute countdown timer starts and the user only has a limited amount of time to take a photo of whatever they are doing at that time.
The app accepts late photos, however, you can’t see your friends' posts until you have posted yourself, and your friends can see exactly how late you have posted.
Taking both a front and back camera photo almost simultaneously, BeReal encourages you to share what you’re doing in that exact moment, no matter how mundane or uninteresting.
By giving users the option to keep their profiles private, each user can create their own small pocket of friends that they want to share their posts with, giving them more freedom and incentive to post on time no matter what they are doing.
Really pushing home the idea of “realness” and “authenticity”, the app also discourages retaking a photo (although it is possible), by displaying how many retakes each user has taken before posting their BeReal.
Trends and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
At the start of 2022, most people had never even heard of BeReal despite its launch in 2019. Fast forward a few months, and you can see people collectively raise their phones in public to snap a picture when the notification goes off. How does an app explode out of obscurity so quickly and seamlessly?
The answer is simple. Humans are simple creatures and just want to be doing what everyone else is doing. Early adopters of the app started posting compilations of their BeReals on TikTok, and by the time a few videos had gone viral, everyone wanted to take part in the latest trend.
Steering away from the filter-heavy, ultra-curated, influencer-saturated worlds of Instagram and TikTok, BeReal gives us a glimpse into the most banal aspects of our friends’ lives. It’s a universally unflattering app, inevitably sending the notification when you’re laying on the couch rewatching Friends for the 1000th time, red-faced and sweaty at the gym, or doing your weekly grocery shopping in your tracksuit pants.
It’s not cute, and you won’t find your next outfit inspiration on BeReal, but that seems to be the point. By forcing users to quickly share a photo within a 2 minute time frame, it strips back the crushing pressure of performance that comes with being observed by strangers on the Internet, and dismisses the need to grow a following and become an influencer.
While Instagram gives users the chance to curate their lives into a perfect-looking highlight reel, BeReal strips away the idea that even our most fun-loving, fashionable, adventurous, or social friends are constantly leading a life that looks better than our own. BeReal shows us that we’re all the same: spending our days at work, our evenings catching up on our favourite TV shows, and our weekends in our pyjamas on the couch.
The copycat game
On July 22, 2022, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri announced a new feature called ‘Dual’ that allowed users to take a photo using both the front and back camera. On September 15, 2022, TikTok announced a new feature called ‘TikTok Now’, where users are prompted once a day to post either a 10 second video or static photo within a 3 minute time frame to share with their close friends.
Are these sounding familiar?
For apps like TikTok watching BeReal getting popular, there is always the fear of losing some users to a new app. By launching ‘TikTok Now’, TikTok is trying to preserve its existing user base by offering similar features (or exactly the same, let’s be real).
Is social media becoming more authentic?
By removing filters and aesthetics, it seems that BeReal and its copycat ‘TikTok Now’ make room for authenticity to exist within social media. Despite, this many people believe that social media can never be truly authentic.
While BeReal discourages retaking photos, as the app has grown in popularity many people wait to take their BeReals until hours after the notification, when they are hanging out with friends, attending a concert, or out for dinner.
The era of striving for authenticity may be upon us, but there will always be a strong undercurrent of people who want to continue to trick the people around them into thinking that their lives are always fun and sparkly.
And while BeReal currently doesn’t run any advertisements and doesn’t allow users to take on any sponsorships, in an age where social media functions as its own economy it is only a matter of time before BeReal starts to explore avenues for monetisation in order to stay relevant.
This article was written by one of our Social Media Co-ordinators and blog writers, Hannah Jantos.