What is the BeReal app, which insists on authenticity, all about?

(CNN) — Brand on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s a new app for sharing photos, and it’s not like other social networks.

The app is called BeReal. And even if you haven’t heard of it, many young people are already signing up. Its monthly active users are up more than 315% this year, according to April data from Apptopia, which tracks and analyzes performance.

We joined the app and talked to users to learn more about how BeReal works and what there is to know about it.

What is BeReal?

BeReal is a social networking app that encourages users to share a slice of their life in real time.

It was launched by an entrepreneur in France in early 2020, but the majority of its users, at least 65%, only became members this year.

As the name suggests, the goal is authenticity. The app invites users once a day to share a photo of what they’re currently doing, giving friends and others an unadulterated view of their lives.

It has no filters or edit buttons. So if your hair is a mess right now and your view is of a rainy parking lot, that’s what people will see.

The result is a far cry from the polished, over-manicured photos popular on other social media platforms.

The BeReal app was launched at the end of 2020 and is rapidly growing in popularity among young people. Credit: Austin Steele/CNN

How does it work?

The concept of BeReal is simple. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll get a notification once a day that it’s time to “BeReal”. That means you have two minutes to take and post a picture of what you’re doing, no matter how mundane.

There is no fixed time: the notification comes at random times of the day, which adds to the mystery of the app.

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“Push notifications are sent simultaneously at different times of the day around the world,” the company explains in a statement. “It is a secret how the time is chosen every day, it is not by chance.”

This means that the window of potential in your life can open at any time. When it does, the app invites you to take a photo of what you’re doing at the time. It takes a double photo: a selfie and one that shows what’s in front of you. (BeReal does not yet allow videos).

The result is a social feed filled with raw photos of people doing inappropriate, everyday things: hanging out in pajamas, doing homework, riding the bus, microwaving dinner.

With only one post per day, there’s no clutter of friends’ photos to mindlessly scroll through. You can only see your friends’ posts if you share a photo, which eliminates stalkers. Some people disable their location for privacy reasons as the app works in real time.

Georgetown University student Ben Telerski, 21, is an avid social media user and joined the app in August.

What I love about BeReal is that I can connect with my friends through social media on a platform that doesn’t encourage likes, comments or being artificial. … just show your friends what you do when the daily alert goes off,” said Telerski, a third-year student majoring in management.

Telerski says that the posts you see on the app are generally more authentic compared to other social media platforms.

“I try to post as soon as I see the notification, even if I’m sitting up in bed or walking to class,” he says. “I think the degree of authenticity depends on the person you believe in on social media. If someone is trying to keep their social media presence very polished and manufactured, BeReal is not the app to use.”

BeReal app

Ben Telerski and Alexandra Henn in an image from their BeReal app. The app takes a double photo showing the user’s selfie and what’s in front of them. Courtesy of Ben Telerski

What happens if it is not published within two minutes?

When the BeReal notification is pressed once a day, the camera opens within the app along with a two-minute countdown timer. You have until the timer runs out to take a picture of what’s in front of you. At the same time, the rear camera takes a selfie.

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The app will share both images. You can take it again at any time during the two minutes and share it with your friends when you’re ready.

BeReal also allows users to take and post the photo later in the day. But let your friends know how many hours passed between the notification time and the post time. In short, it calls you out for your lack of spontaneity.

Why do people use it?

BeReal focused its marketing on university campuses. The app recruits young users through its university ambassador program, which allows students to organize events to promote the app.

Telerski believes the app is popular because it’s an antidote to pressure to look perfect online.

“I’ve seen a lot of news lately about the negative impact of social media on Gen Z’s mental health. I don’t know if BeReal is trying to combat this problem directly, but it’s definitely making progress towards that goal,” he says.

Psychologist gives you advice on how to take care of your self-image in social networks 4:43

Morgan Nott, 26, runs a tea shop in Reno and is new to the app. She started using it last week at the suggestion of a friend. Nott says she finds it refreshing to get a non-idealized, unaffected view of other people’s lives.

“It’s the authenticity that makes it so attractive. Users aren’t as flashy or fake as some might make themselves out to be on other platforms,” ​​he says. “That’s something else.”

In a statement, BeReal says its goal is to create “an alternative to addictive social networks” that focuses on gathering influence, it says.

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“BeReal is your chance to show your friends who you really are,” says the company. “BeReal won’t make you famous, if you want to be an influencer you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”

Are BeReal posts really that authentic?

The app doesn’t give you much time to do your makeup or enhance your environment before taking and posting the photos.

But some users may try to “heal” their lives on the app.

“There’s a chance to be as artificial on BeReal as people tend to be on other platforms,” ​​says Telerski.

Some people might ignore the notification to post at a certain time and wait to post until they’re dressed and going out to dinner with friends, he says.

“It is not in the spirit of BeReal and completely defeats the purpose,” he says. “BeReal should be full of pictures of (people) walking around, doing homework and sitting up in bed watching Netflix.”

The young people CNN spoke to have no plans to leave Instagram, TikTok and other social media apps.

Nott says he plans to keep letting his guard down on BeReal, and posting on other social platforms.

Telerski says that he tries to maintain a certain level of authenticity on social media, regardless of the platform. Authenticity is determined by a person, not an app, he says.

“For those who think we need a new social network to be truly authentic, maybe we should take this as a sign to be more authentic in our social media presence,” he says.

“Think about the original purpose of social media: real connection with family and friends to keep up with your life. Maybe we should go back to that.”



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