BeReal is the new social media app taking Gen Z by storm

For tech-savvy Sydneysiders Renee Zhang, 23, and Jay Tulabing-Lee, 21, BeReal has already established itself as part of their social media diet.

The latter, who works for a tech start-up called Instant, describes the short window users have to post as a “refreshing” feature that allows young people to share content without spending hours addicted to the platform.

“I definitely prefer it to other forms of social media because Instagram, TikTok and Facebook try to keep us there longer and suck up more of our time,” Ms Tulabing-Lee told The Australian Financial Review.

Jayfel Tulabing-Lee says she enjoys the decluttered feeling of BeReal and the sense it isn’t trying to waste all your time. 

Ms Zhang, who also works for a start-up, says the app is growing in their friendship group, with about a third of them using it. But she has expressed doubts over BeReal’s marketing claim to authenticity, given users can easily curate their posts, and estimates that only 10 per cent of her friends post on time.

“It’s easy to wait until you’re at a party or doing something interesting with friends before pulling out your phone to take a late BeReal,” Ms Zhang said.

Chris Moore, a digital and social media lecturer at the University of Wollongong, said BeReal had successfully targeted a “disenfranchised” set of social media users who looked to escape the “highly commercialised and standardised aesthetic of Instagram”.

But he believes the forward- and backward-facing photos reveal the company’s path to revenue, predicting BeReal will take the well-trodden path of exchanging free access for data.

“All the data they are collecting would be very valuable to AI developers or standard advertisers and one can only assume it will be sold as intellectual property,” Dr Moore told the Financial Review.

“That’s not a bad thing. But it’s important to remember that what seems like a really fun, engaging, candid and casual experience is probably there for another reason.”

Robert Potter, a security adviser and chief executive at Canberra-based cyber defence consultancy Internet 2.0, warns young people who grew up on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat not to expect the same level of cybersecurity on BeReal.

He said while the app was subject to strictly enforced European data protection regulations, unlike TikTok, that didn’t stop things potentially going wrong given its rapid growth and relative infancy.

“You can trust they will protect your data, but don’t be confident they will be competent,” Mr Potter told the Financial Review.

“Companies when they grow are only looking for user adoption. It’s very easy to forget about cybersecurity, which is usually the last dollar spent, but that’s when you end up in trouble.”

Mr Potter said it was too early to tell if BeReal would be here to stay, with the decision about how it turns a growing user base into revenue the “most important it will ever make”.

But Curtin University internet studies lecturer Dr Tama Leaver has his doubts about BeReal’s longevity, giving the French app a “one-in-20” chance of still existing in three years’ time in a “meaningful size” as people only use it for a few minutes each day.

“There’s nothing novel about BeReal apart from the packaging,” he said.

“I love the name, but social media is about performing and there’s nothing about BeReal that feels real or authentic.”

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