In case you haven’t heard of BeReal, and chances are you haven’t yet, it is a social media app that is meant to be quite the opposite of Instagram. Launched at the beginning of 2020 by Alexis Barreyat and Kevin Perreau, the app only started gaining popularity in early 2022, hitting number one on the App Store in the US in July 2022, and is currently at 73.5 million monthly active users, with 20 million accessing the app daily.
But what is it all about?
Every day, BeReal prompts its users to take a photo within a 2-minute window at random times in the day. The app takes a photo using the front and back cameras, creating both a selfie and a background of your surroundings in the same image, like this one:
You and your friends receive the notification at the same time, and from the time you get it, you have only two minutes to take a photo that you can neither edit nor add filters to. If you miss the notification, you can take your BeReal later on, but your friends will see how long it took you to take the photo.
You then have 24 hours to see your friends’ photos or public feed photos, but you can only access those if you’ve taken your BeReal that day.
It’s as simple as that. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a simpler social media app. It’s basically a daily photo journal of your and your friends’ more or less mundane lives.
Honestly, I’m both surprised and not surprised at the same time that this has caught on so well. On the one hand, the highly filtered and shiny world of TikTok and Instagram draws us in like moths to a flame, but on the other hand, we’re somehow at least subconsciously sick and tired of it and craving a more basic and real connection with our friends.
And TikTok and Instagram have caught on to this trend and launched features of their own that copy the French photo app. In fact, TikTok went so far as to create a feature called TikTok Now, which is available in some regions of the world as a standalone app that is a full-on clone of BeReal. In the US, you can only access the feature through the main TikTok app. Similarly, Instagram launched a feature called “Candid Challenges”, where users are prompted to post an unfiltered selfie at a random time and have the same 2-minute timeframe to do so. I’m sorry, Instagram, but who are you trying to be? You’re either encouraging realness or perfectionism, take your pick. You can’t really have it both ways.
But I’ll leave my tangent for later on. First, let’s check out what are BeReal’s features and what you can do with them.
Options in the BeReal app
Here are the main things you can do in the BeReal app:
Two ways to take photos
When you are prompted to take your daily snap, there are two ways you can do it: you can see the background you’re photographing but not yourself, or you can reverse the camera and see how your selfie’s going to turn out, but have no idea of the background. Either way, the selfie is going to be the smaller picture within the big picture, and your surroundings will take the spotlight.
To be honest, I found this a bit confusing at first because when you’re taking the selfie, you’re under the impression that that’s going to be the main focus of the image since you have no idea how the background’s going to turn out, and vice-versa, when you’re using the main phone camera you’re seeing your background but have no idea what you look like. So you have to choose between a probably unflattering selfie or having no idea how much of your background you’re actually capturing.
Had I known that the selfie is the smaller part of the image in both situations, I would have probably chosen to see the selfie over the background, but I guess that depends on the situation and if you want to capture something specific in your surroundings. I think you can clearly tell which one of these two photos was taken with me seeing myself rather than my background 🙂
Your feed has two features: “My Friends” and “Discovery”. On the “My Friends” feed, you will see only the BeReals that your friends have taken in the last 24 hours, after which you will no longer be able to see them.
On the Discovery feed, you are able to see what everyone else in the community has posted in the last 24 hours, but only if you’ve posted a BeReal yourself that day.
This is the most “Instagram-like” experience on the app because you’re able to scroll as much as you like. Otherwise, BeReal is mainly an anti-scroll experience, with just a few photos from your friends, and you can keep it that way if you don’t get immersed in the Discovery feed.
Your profile is very simple and includes your BeReals (Memories) that only you can see.
You can click on one to see it enlarged and share it on other social media networks or download it. You also have access to a few basic settings like blocking profiles, activating or deactivating your memories, and what notifications to get.
How to delete a BeReal photo or memory
If you’ve taken a BeReal that you really don’t want other people to see, you can go to your latest post (from your main feed, not from memories) and click on the three dots in the top right corner and then on “Delete my BeReal”. You will be asked why you want to delete your photo, and after deleting it, you will be prompted to take another BeReal, but you can only do this once a day.
You can also delete one of your memories, but that will not delete your latest post from your friends’ and discovery feeds; it will still be visible for the next 24 hours. So if you want to completely delete it, delete the post from your feed and not from your memories.
Comments and RealMojis
Like on any other social media app, you can comment under a friend’s photo or react with a RealMoji. For instance, if you want to give a like to a photo, the app will ask you to take another selfie that will be used as a “RealMoji” on the photo instead of a thumbs up.
During the installation process, I had some issues with receiving a confirmation code on my phone. I kept getting an error message or receiving the code after a few hours. I had to try like 30 times before I received the code and managed to continue to the next step. I saw other people complaining about this or other similar hiccups during the setup process. Hopefully, BeReal is working on these bugs.
Who is BeReal for?
Having lived in a world where Instagram exists, I can see how many of us would struggle mentally with the 2-minute posting timeframe and would try to make ourselves look better instead of just being real. After years of seeing the world through a highly-filtered Instagram lens and trying to fit into its algorithms that force you to post things that you wouldn’t normally post, it’s hard to let go of all the mechanisms you’ve developed to be successful in a world that doesn’t accept you the way you are, or where you can’t be successful by just being yourself.
But with BeReal, there’s only so much you can prep in 2 minutes, so in the end, you’ll be forced to be at least 80% real. I mean, sure, you can quickly put on some lipgloss, run to a better location, or retake the photo a few times for a better selfie or background. Still, in the end, BeReal is meant to be a mostly boring feed of what all your friends are doing at a certain moment in their day, and that’s the charm of it. Most of the photos will probably show people at their desks, at the gym, cooking, watching TV, hanging out with their kids, and doing other regular daily activities. Since you’re prompted to take a photo within two minutes, chances are slimmer that you’ll actually be doing something super interesting at that exact moment. But I believe that’s the point, seeing what your friends are doing for real in their day-to-day lives rather than a (sometimes/often?) fabricated highlight reel that just makes you feel like you’re living a less glamorous life than everyone else.
As an introvert working from home and living a life that’s not very eventful, I have to admit installing this app kind of gave my perfectionist brain a bit of a panic attack. The first time I was prompted to take a photo, I was still in my PJs, working on my computer, and I couldn’t bring myself to take the photo. It made me think I should probably make more of an effort to get ready in the morning so that I’m a bit more put together when I get the BeReal notification to take my daily photo.
But maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a photo app can help you form a few good habits like putting on an outfit, fixing your hair, and maybe putting on a bit of makeup, how can that be a bad thing? If these things will make you feel better about yourself and you’ve been meaning to implement them into your life, you should grab any opportunity to fake it till you make it. But don’t let the app or shame be your motivator, at least not long-term, do these things because they make you feel better, and not to impress your friends.
On the other hand, if you’re struggling with body image issues or you don’t think your life is interesting enough to document on a daily basis, you could take this opportunity to learn to love yourself as you are and challenge yourself to expose your true self to the world – with no filters, no make-up, and no lifestyle adjustments. Remember, you are worthy of love just as you are.
What I’m trying to say is, like with many other instruments in life, you can use this app for good or bad and make it what you want. If you feel good about yourself and you enjoy getting a sneak peek into your friends’ real lives, then BeReal is for you. If, on the other hand, this app makes you feel even more judgemental about yourself, I suggest you uninstall it and instead dig deeper into your sources of discontent. What is it that you don’t like about yourself or your life, and can you change something about that or accept it?
See also: What is the best social media site?