Commentary

The Anti-Instagram Says It's Time To BeReal

Just as I sat down to write this column, I was interrupted by an alert on my phone. It was urgent: 2 min left to capture your BeReal and see what your friends are up to!

‘Twas time to showcase my all-so-exciting life.

I leaned forward and pointed my phone camera down at the floor, where my two cats, Ginger and Poppy, were looking up, dewy-eyed, expecting me to flit their favorite little feather toy back and forth. I took the photo, which incorporated a simultaneous selfie.

If you were bored reading that, I don’t blame you; that’s kind of the point. BeReal, the trending no-frills social media platform, is proud of its mantra: “No filters. No followers. Just friends, sharing with each other. On BeReal, you discover your friends’ real lives and get closer to them.

Compared to other photos I’ve taken on the trending no-frills social media platform, this cat one was extravagant. Definitely more exciting than a photo of my laptop screen (and my face), or my mom and aunt playing cards (and my face), or strangers standing outside a cafe (and, yes, my face).

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On BeReal, which introduced dual-camera functionality to the social media stratosphere, you only get the chance to post one photo a day, with, as mentioned above, two minutes to capture said photo.

In other words, BeReal catches you in an unexpected moment (a photo alert can appear at any time a day) to capture whatever it is you are doing. And only after you post your own BeReal can you see your friends’ posts.

Right now, there are no ads and no algorithms, just a page where you can see your friends’ posts and a Discover page featuring strangers’ posts. This simplicity is what I imagine most users find refreshing about BeReal.

In the age of endless updates, disturbing headlines about the negative impacts of social media on mental health, the spread of hateful misinformation, the untamed algorithms, and fast-paced short-form videos integrated by most BeReal current competitors, people may just need a break.

BeReal provides users––many of whom I assume, after seeing so many highschool/college photos, are Gen-Zers (which must really tick Meta off)––with uber-relatable representations of daily life, not preplanned, influencer-ready, top-10 highlight photos that can stir deep-seeded feelings of jealousy and shame, especially among young people.

And this temporary dose of calm may end up being more than just a passing trend. Over the past year, the platform has grown from 10,000 daily active users to 10 million, according to the company. In Q1 of 2022, BeReal saw 3.3 million downloads worldwide, up 390% from Q4 2021.

Hence the tech giants’ urge to imitate BeReal.

The copycats are lurking in not-so-very-tall-grasses. Just this week, Snapchat announced the launch of its own dual camera feature, adding additional choices of dual output formats, including vertical, horizontal, picture-in-picture, and cut-out.

Instagram, which recently pissed off its high-profile users by attempting to be TikTok, has also been developing BeReal-esque features for months now. Marketed as the anti-Instagram, BeReal must find this particular case of duplication ironic.

As for advertising, BeReal doesn’t currently allow any formal advertising on the app. Yet, this doesn’t mean brands aren’t experimenting.

Some major brands, like Chipotle, are using BeReal as a means to share reusable promo codes that granted people free entrees. Fast Company said that these codes were regularly redeemed in less than a minute.

Other brands are using BeReal to feature behind-the-scenes content, product previews and offers, and insights into how they run their business.

There’s something truly beautiful (and grounding) about celebrating the mundanity of someone’s life, even a brand’s. Before BeReal, I was wholly unaware of what the hell my friends––and people in general––did all day. Now, to a certain extent, I know-- and without the addictive pressure to keep scrolling and posting.

It’s all so surprisingly human. For now.

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