What is the BeReal photo-sharing app and what makes it unique?

BeReal.com Getty Images Remix By Keane eacobellis

It seems like every day, someone new is taking a break from social media. While we absentmindedly scroll through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, one particular post has sprouted with increasing frequency: an announcement from someone saying that they’re taking a break from social media to prioritize their mental health.

The length of these breaks varies from person to person, but all tend to share a common trait: the person taking said break always comes back. Even with increasingly frequent research highlighting the harmful effects of consistent and prolonged use of social media, it seems that most users keep coming back for more. Since that’s the case, it might be time to rethink not how we use social media, but how social media allows us to use it. 

That’s where French entrepreneurs Alex Barreyat and Kévin Perreau come into the picture. Sensing the collective itch for authenticity, Barreyat, a former employee at GoPro, created BeReal, a social media app that aims to help people strip the facade we effortlessly create on social media and replace it with an authentic representation of who we really are in our day-to-day lives. 

What is BeReal and how does it work?

Image via BeReal

BeReal is a relatively new social media app that has been making waves around the world by challenging people to rethink how they present themselves online and how they interact with others. The app, which was created in 2019, only allows users to upload unfiltered images of themselves. For those who frequent apps like Instagram and Snapchat, this is a jarring culture shock.

Here’s how it works: BeReal will send you a notification once a day to upload a photo of yourself. You only get two minutes to prepare, with the intent being not to catch you off guard, but rather to offer an honest display of reality. If you’re in your bed, well, it looks like that day’s photo will consist of bedsheets and bedhead. If you’re in the grocery store, grab the carrot sticks and smile.

What if you’re driving or can’t take a photo at that moment? No worries, you can postpone your upload to a later time, but here’s the caveat: you can’t look at other people’s photos until you upload yours. The intention here is to keep people from “doom scrolling” and not engaging with others. 

Another interesting aspect of the app’s functionality is that you can only post once a day ⏤ a stark difference from basically every other social media app on the planet. In addition, your photo is meant to give people the full picture, meaning the app will use both the front and back cameras to give people a look at not just your face but also your surroundings, be it the TV across from your bed, the blank wall in front of your desk, the bread aisle in the grocery store, or the clerk scowling at you at the DMV. 

With BeReal’s vast differences to all the other major social media apps on the market, one can’t help but wonder if the platform is doomed for failure. As they say, the facts speak for themselves. 

Why is BeReal making such a splash?

BeReal social media The smart generation
Image via Getty Images

Similar to how younger siblings tend to learn from the mistakes of their older ones, Gen Z seems to be paying attention to the harmful ways social media has affected millennials. That’s not to say that Gen Z hasn’t been affected, too, but with youth comes stamina, and Gen Z is putting in the work to avoid the errors of their elders. 

Five million people have downloaded BeReal since the app hit the market in 2019. Of those five million users, around 3.2 million came during 2022 alone. Per Apptopia, BeReal’s monthly active users have increased 315 percent since the beginning of 2022. Right now, BeReal ranks number four in the U.S., U.K., and France for mobile app downloads, falling just beneath Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. 

BeReal’s popularity has caused some concerns over the app’s privacy policy. As it stands, the policy is not the clearest on how it uses user information, and concerns about the app’s inside knowledge of people’s daily habits have begun to emerge. Neither spokespeople for the app nor its creators have commented on the issue as of yet. 

Ever since MySpace and Facebook, new social media inventions have sprouted across the market. Some have come and gone (MySpace and Vine) and some have stayed (Instagram and Twitter). Who’s to say which category BeReal will fall under? One thing is certain, though: change for social media is on the horizon. The only question now is whether or not we’re ready for it.