BeReal: The reversal of bad habits or just new social media pressures?
A new social media platform has been creating waves in the tech space, but is it just a fad? It also might be a warning for creators and brands to reevaluate leaning so heavily into video content. I have multiple friends that were early adopters of BeReal and love it. However, I have been more hesitant about the concept’s execution. In theory, BeReal is moving in an interesting direction since there are growing complaints about how social media negatively affects our mental health and perception of reality. But, we are far from reversing the programmed behaviors learned from social media and will another form of social media be the ultimate solution?
It seems like BeReal is in the most competition with Snapchat and Instagram; however, any disruptor in the social media industry has ripple effects on the strategies of every platform. It is nothing new that people are more and more resistant to some of the larger platforms’ monopolies over media and content. Facebook is a primary example of this since they lost users for the first time in 2021 and are seeing huge repercussions from this consumer behavior. The App Store listing of BeReal explains, “Your friends for real. Not another social network. BeReal is the simplest photo sharing app to share once a day your real life in photo with friends. Everyday at a different time, everyone captures a photo within 2 minutes. Capture and post in time to discover what your Friends are up to”. The app takes a picture using your front and back camera and quickly formats it to showcase both views. With only two minutes to take the photo, you do not have a lot of time to get yourself “camera ready” or to take the usual 3000 photos to only select one. BeReal seems to be capitalizing on a time where users are looking for connection, realistic content and a place to share. A lot of its messaging is targeted around realness and breaking down negative behaviors that we have adopted in the era of social media and the creator economy. But, I believe others arise for all of the problems it tries to solve. So, let’s get into my good, bad, and mixed takes on BeReal.
Pros of BeReal
- Connection with friends and feel included in their lives
- No filters or editing
- Less emphasis on perfection
There are positive things that come from BeReal, and I think it is because of these reasons aligning with what the consumer wants is why the app has been so successful so far. A TechCrunch article details, “App intelligence firm Apptopia noted earlier [in April 2022] that 65% of its lifetime downloads occurred in 2022 and its monthly active users had grown 315% year-to-date. […] BeReal has seen 7.67 million downloads year-to-date, representing 74.5% of its lifetime installs. France (where the app is based) and the U.S. lead, with a 20.5% and 19.7% share of installs, respectively”. The pandemic exacerbated people’s need for connection and community. Streaming services adapted to have multi-screen viewing capabilities to watch shows with others, social networks have the option for creators to go live and broadcast video, Facebook has public and private groups and video call services create ways for groups to talk and see each other in real-time, etc. Not all of these were created during the pandemic, but adoption and emphasis on these kinds of features rose in a time of need for connection. BeReal provides a way for you to see what is going on in your friends’ lives at one point in time that you all share. Even if you aren’t physically with them, you still feel like you are a part of their day. To this point, everything you see is way more realistic than you may find on other social sites; it takes away the opportunities to use filters, edit out imperfections or insecurities and overthink your photos. In my opinion, the body dysmorphia and negative body image issues that stem from social media have changed how we view ourselves and others, and this feature is the most significant step forward in bringing transparency to this space.
Cons of BeReal
- How will they make money, and what does this mean for users?
- You want to live in the moment more, but you are doing it for the wrong reason
- You are on a time limit with your phone, but you are still attached to it
There are some things that I have thought that fall into a more mixed reaction category. One question that arises from the current business model for the platform is how will they optimize for profit? As of right now, BeReal does currently not make any money and is financed by outside investors. This is a huge red flag for your data because, sadly, no one does anything just for the good of it when it comes to investing. Will they integrate advertising opportunities? Will there be a place for branded or sponsored content and influencers? Are people going to want to create content without any chance of monetizing? Is this app truly for the typical person to keep in touch with their friends?
For an app that has also commented on how much time people spend on social media and their phones, creating a model where people constantly check for a randomly timed notification does not feel like the solution. On top of this, if you tried to time it to look cool, is the app successful by making you live every day to the fullest all day? As much as BeReal tries to move away from behaviors created in response to social media, it leans into FOMO, which “was introduced in 2004 and then extensively used since 2010 to describe a phenomenon observed on social networking sites,” according to a mental health study. Since you know you will get the notification at some point in the day, you want to do things that are “socially acceptable” and what you want to present as your day-to-day life. The best thing to compare it to is the trend on TikTok, where people do day in the life videos. Even if someone has the same job or lives in the same city, these vlogs can look drastically different. Of course, TikTok creators will showcase the best parts of their day, or they will make the video completely satirical as commentary about the trend or their crappy day. The BeReal app also generally does not feel inclusive of those who have day jobs or situations where a randomly timed picture shared with all of their friends sounds entertaining. With all this being said, it is an interesting concept. I am still skeptical about it, but I am very curious to watch and see what BeReal does to the social media industry.
More About The Author
Lia Esposito is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a degree in Media and Journalism concentrating in Advertising and Public Relations with an English Minor. She is currently a social media strategist in the fintech industry.