A French social media platform launched by Alexis Barreyat in 2020, BeReal recently topped the free download charts on iOS, surpassing TikTok. The app initially gained popularity abroad and subsequently attracted special posters on US college campuses. Americans are now the primary user base. The recent surge in downloads from BeReal can be partly attributed to a series of viral TikToks referencing the social media app.
BeReal prompts users at any time every day and urges them to take a photo and send it to their friends. You only have two minutes to respond and a collage of two images will be created from your front and back camera.
The pristine, curated Instagram aesthetic has been declared dead multiple times, and BeReal is capitalizing on an ongoing search for authenticity on social media, whatever that means. The company has received millions of dollars from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, a prominent Silicon Valley player who has poured money into Clubhouse, OpenSea and Substack in recent years.
In February, Harvard student Mariah Norman declared dumping photos on Instagram a passé effort so mainstream that the president is doing it. Enamored of the unfiltered feed on BeReal, she wrote, “Because there’s no time to find that perfect pose or background, the content you engage in the app is charmingly mundane yet extremely authentic and creative.” Norman also mentioned that BeReal sponsored a party with free entry for Harvard students who interacted with the app.
Jules Kourelakos, a student at Duke University, pointed out that while BeReal seems less performative than other social media options, users continue to capture a posed version of themselves. While the search for authenticity online may be fruitless, the app is well designed and easy to pick up.
You need an account to get started on BeReal, which is available for iPhone and Android. After you download the app, it will ask for access to your contacts to connect with friends who may already be using the service (you can decline if you wish). Unless your Rolodex is full of trendsetters, many of your friends may not be using the platform yet. The app asks for your name, date of birth and phone number. It’s critical to keep time-sensitive notifications on if you want to post within the daily two minutes.
When creating an account, BeReal encourages new users to create their first post on the spot. Your post every day takes the toll on seeing friends’ posts on the discovery feed. Don’t feel like posting? Well, you’ll have to spend time on another app because everyone’s photos won’t be accessible on BeReal until you’ve contributed for the day. Users are allowed to share timestamped photos after the window has passed, but all images will be treated as homework late with a “15 minutes late” disclaimer at the top.
To create a message, the app needs access to your smartphone’s cameras. After flipping the camera to see both sides with the back button and turning on the flash, if necessary, by tapping the lightning bolt, press the circle in the bottom center of the screen to take your photos. Even for late BeReals, there’s an on-screen two-minute timer that counts down as you take (or re-shoot) photos.