BeReal is the latest social media app to rapidly gain traction, boasting 10 million downloads on Apple devices in August. The app compels users to share an unfiltered glimpse into their everyday activities and is especially popular among Generation Z — according to Time, 55% of BeReal users are between the ages of 16-25.
Every day at a random time, BeReal sends a notification to all users simultaneously with the directive “Time to BeReal.” Users have two minutes to capture a photo, which includes two images from both the front-facing and back-facing cameras, before their post is marked as late.
Aarya Upadhyaya, a fourth-year studying biology, said she noticed BeReal grew in popularity among her peers upon their return to campus. She said part of the app’s growth can be attributed to word-of-mouth promotion.
“I guess people just keep talking about it,” Upadhyaya said. “They’ll be with a group of friends and it’ll pop up on their phone, and people are like, ‘Oh, what’s that?,’ like, ‘Let’s take a BeReal.’”
Morgan Moran, a fourth-year studying horticulture science, said people post interesting, funny content on the app, which has generated discussion on other platforms. The #bereal hashtag has accumulated 1.4 billion views on TikTok, and on Twitter, tweets depicting BeReal posts amass hundreds of thousands of likes.
this is the craziest BeReal I ever seen😭 pic.twitter.com/S5oO6Tubj5
— 𝓳𝓮𝓷 (@jen4PF) August 31, 2022
Upadhyaya said she thinks BeReal is more low maintenance than other social media platforms because she only posts once a day.
“I like it because it’s simple,” Upadhyaya said. “It’s not overwhelming. I feel like Snapchat is so judgemental; you have to send chats and post pictures and stuff. BeReal is so simple.”
Grant Bollmer, an associate professor in communication, said BeReal presents a sense of unity that appeals to users.
“Even though we’re supposedly connected through social media, the actual experience of being together isn’t really there,” Bollmer said. “So you could say the fact that BeReal goes, ‘You only have two minutes to actually take this picture right now, and it has to be at this moment or everybody’s going to know,’ there’s a synchronicity there. It’s of course technologically managed, but it’s about in some ways desiring the use of technology to say, ‘We are here together at the same moment, we’re doing the same thing, even if we’re separated by distance.’”
Additionally, Bollmer said the spontaneous nature of BeReal prevents users from curating their posts and can feel more authentic than other platforms.
“Instagram feels so incredibly heavily edited and polished that the specific images on Instagram are all selected and chosen,” Bollmer said. “Facebook, nobody really uses [it] anymore except for crazy political commentary by your parents. Even TikTok, the whole thing of TikTok is about creating entertaining content, is going viral, is something that’s soundtracked, is something that’s clever. It’s not truly spontaneous, it’s very produced. … So BeReal you could say goes back to that early internet in which everything’s really rough, everything was not necessarily done for likes or money, which is the case increasingly now. It’s a space in which you can’t be an influencer.”
Meghan Riddick, a second-year studying biological and agricultural engineering technology, said while some people post the mundane aspects of their life on BeReal, others aim to post the exciting parts of their day.
“I think it’s just fun to be able to see what people are doing when they’re doing it,” Riddick said. “I know everyone gets upset when BeReal is after when they’ve done something, like when you’ve done this big, big thing that would have been perfect and then BeReal is a couple hours later like, ‘Hi.’”
Upadhyaya said she will occasionally post a BeReal late because she likes to post photos with her friends.
According to Bollmer, although BeReal is popular, the app will not continue to be successful without developing a financial strategy to make money, like including advertisements. Additionally, Instagram may adopt a feature similar to the design of BeReal, which prompts users to take a candid photo using the front-facing and back-facing cameras, and this could threaten BeReal’s longevity.
Riddick said she thinks BeReal is a unique concept, but she isn’t sure if it will remain popular or if it’s just a trend.
“I think it’s a pretty cool idea, honestly,” Riddick said. “I wish the timing was better, though. I don’t know, it would defeat the purpose if you could choose when to do it. But I do think it’s a neat idea. I think people have had fun with it.”