When it comes to social media apps, don’t blink, or you’ll miss the newest trend. This week’s star is BeReal, an app that has become known as the anti-Instagram, eschewing preening and posing for unfiltered reality. As the name indicates, the makers of the new app just want us to “be real.”
Sales of the app which began two years ago in France have soared over the last few months and it has become wildly popular among college students and 20-somethings. Even a plethora of technical glitches, didn’t keep it from nabbing the top spot in the App Store for three days running last week.
BeReal prompts members to take one photo a day
On BeReal, people post once a day when prompted by a notification instructing them that it’s “Time to BeReal,” bracketed by two yellow warning sign emojis ⚠️ Time to BeReal. ⚠️. With a single click the app takes two photos, one from the main camera and one from the selfie camera.
The resulting image is meant to be posted within two minutes and can be captioned but cannot be edited or filtered. Old images are replaced by new ones the following day. And you choose your followers so the audience for your posts is hand-picked.
You can retake your image but your followers will know how many times you have retaken an image. Any image posted outside of the two minute time frame will bear the ignominious label of “late.” In addition, a user cannot see anyone else’s images until they upload their own.
I first learned of the app when my twenty-one year old son stopped by for a brief dinner and in the midst of chewing his fully-loaded hamburger was prompted by BeReal to take a picture. As I started to sermonize on phone usage during mealtime he explained that he had just joined BeReal and it required immediate action and ‘no’ it could not wait until after dinner.
Most of our members said they enjoyed using the app
The app pitches itself as “A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.” When I asked the 250,000 members of Grown and Flown Parents they gave mostly positive responses laced with some concern like Beth who said,
Both of my college-aged girls really like it. Take a picture of whatever you are doing at that moment. No time to fake it up. I could see where it could lead to some inappropriate pictures but you control who sees your account.
BUT, as a high school teacher, I can see this causing problems in class. Especially when we already have such problems with cell phone usage at school.
But can we really be real here for a moment??? I’m all about truth-telling but doesn’t reality lie somewhere between curation and surprise? Catch me off guard and the illusion is that you get the real me, but what exactly is the value of catching my son with ketchup dripping down his face? (And by the way, his hair was an unmitigated disaster.)
I’m not touting any one social media channel over another but if it’s authenticity we are in hot pursuit of should we not allow a poster to mediate what feels authentic to them? What is closest to my truth — a random 4pm response to an automatic prompt to click, or the images I choose to share when I choose to share them?
BeReal is “a candid and fun place for people to share their lives with friends,” the company said.
We want to make people feel good about themselves and their lives. We want an alternative to addictive social networks fueling social comparison and portraying life with the goal of amassing influence.
Is BeReal a passing fad or will it soon begone? Time will tell.
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