“[BeReal] sends everyone a notification at a random time every day,” the video’s caption reads. “We have 2 minutes to post what we are doing.”
According to TechCrunch, the app was launched in 2019 by French businessmen Alexis Barreyat — former GoPro employee — and Kévin Perreau. When users respond to the daily photo sharing notification, the app simultaneously takes a picture with their phone’s front and back cameras to accurately reflect their current whereabouts. A user’s feed is cleared every day after each BeReal notification, which prevents users from scrolling on the app for hours.
Since BeReal’s humble beginnings in Europe, the app’s popularity has skyrocketed among Gen Zers worldwide, seeing “7.67 million downloads year-to-date,” with France and the U.S. being the top countries to create new accounts. The social network owes its success to word-of-mouth promotion and its successful college ambassador program.
Why is BeReal so popular with Gen Z?
BeReal markets itself as an “anti” social network; as the app’s name suggests, it encourages users to “be real” with their friends and share what their daily lives truly look like. There is no such thing as becoming “BeReal famous” — the posting format forces users to be their most authentic selves.
“BeReal is life, Real life, and this life is without filters,” reads BeReal’s description on the App Store. “BeReal won’t make you famous. If you want to become an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”
The app launched amid the ever-growing “make Instagram casual again” movement, which protests the highly manipulated aesthetic that influencer culture pressures users to emulate. Gen Zers are especially exhausted from the effort it takes to keep up a “pretty” image on social media, comparing themselves to their peers and worrying about how others will perceive them online.
The mental health effects of influencer culture on young people can be devastating. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook researched the correlation between Instagram usage and teen Instagrammers’ mental health in 2019 and 2020; statistics from studies conducted in the U.S. and U.K. showed that:
- Instagram “[makes] body image issues worse for one in three teen girls”
- “40% of Instagram users who reported feeling ‘unattractive’ said the feeling began on the app”
- And “40% of teen boys [on Instagram] experience negative social comparison“
The push to make Instagram “casual again” shows that users long for Instagram’s early days, when posting pictures required little thought and effort. BeReal’s simple format attempts to remove the stress that comes with sharing a photo online. It allows today’s youth to not feel pressured to make their lives seem perfect all the time.
Could BeReal’s mission to fight influencer culture backfire?
Despite BeReal’s mission to change how Gen Z posts on social media, the ubiquitous urge to curate one’s online presence may still prevail. Users have taken to Twitter to share their disappointment after a BeReal notification is sent when they aren’t “doing something interesting.”
Furthermore, when viral content regarding “cool” BeReals spreads across other platforms popular with Gen Z, the pressure to maintain an “image” on social media could easily break BeReal’s promise of authenticity. TikToker Bee shared the following video, in which her BeReal occurred when she met Matty Healy, lead singer of the indie rock band the 1975.
“You ain’t ever seen a better BeReal,” Bee wrote in the caption.
Since Bee’s viral BeReal, other Gen Zs have found ways to strategize their posts on the anti-social media app to highlight their life’s best moments. Although the app sends one daily notification, users can still log on after the designated posting time to send a “late” BeReal. This TikTok is one of many where BeReal users tried to send a late post during a Harry Styles concert.
Accepting life’s mundane moments is how you can “be real”
As viral content surrounding BeReal raises the question of whether or not social media authenticity can exist, most users still appreciate the app for what it is: A chance to see into your friends’ real lives rather than always seeing them through Facetune and filters.
“You know what BeReal has taught me? We’re all just a little more boring than we give ourselves credit for. Your friends are not constantly hanging out without you,” @averybrynn1 wrote. “It’s all gonna be ok.”
“I think this is the exact reason I love bereal so much, when people use it honestly it helps w FOMO and anxiety,” a TikToker commented.
“Too many people post theirs late when they’re doing something fun and it makes me so mad,” another wrote.
“Bereal lets me find the interesting things in boring moments and tell my friends about it,” someone said.
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