BeReal photo-sharing app offers an authentic alternative to Instagram

BeReal takes casual publishing to the next level.

Founded in 2020 by French entrepreneur Alexis Barreyat, BeReal was created in response to the current social media landscape. It’s not like Instagram, where users can organize their feeds and edit their images. BeReal does not allow you to organize. There are no filters. It simply gives users a random two-minute window each day to post a photo. When you post, the app uses both your front and back camera, giving your friends a full picture of what you’re doing right now – much like the now defunct Frontback app. With BeReal, there’s no way to lie about where you are or what you’re doing. You cannot project a perfect image.

Once you receive the notification, you only have two minutes to post a photo on the app.
Credit: Screenshot: BeReal

“BeReal won’t make you famous,” reads the description of BeReal in the App Store, “if you want to become an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”

Instagram’s move towards monetization and accompanying changes to its algorithm have left its users eager to have a feed full of photos of their friends, rather than a feed full of ads, influencer content paying and recommended publications. To combat inauthenticity on the app, there has been a trend to “make Instagram casual” by posting snapshots of photos or slices of life. But posting casually doesn’t solve the problem either. Some say “Casual Instagram” is an even bigger performance. Is there anything really candid on Instagram? Rather than posing for a cute photo at a party, you have to act like you’re not posing at all so that your entire life matches a “vibe” or aesthetic.

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This is where BeReal comes in.

I only have a handful of close friends on the app, and they’re all people who might follow my finsta or my close friends’ story on Instagram. A scroll through my BeReal feed today shows me sitting in front of my laptop at work, three other friends in front of their laptops, another thrift store and an old classmate drinking coconut water. BeReal’s appeal lies in its immediacy. When you receive the alert on your phone, you only have two minutes to capture an image, and you never know when it will drop.

One of my BeReal posts.

An example from one of my articles on BeReal, with freshly baked bread.
Credit: Elena Cavender

When BeReal performs outside of working hours, my stream is only slightly more interesting. You might rather surprise me on my evening walk or reading The custom of the country. The appeal of the BeReal stream isn’t the content – it’s that you love your friends and care about what they’re doing.

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“It’s cute to see what your friends are up to,” Juliette Decugis, a 21-year-old student from Paris at UC Berkeley, told Mashable. According to Decugis, the application is “huge in France”, where it was launched. She started using it in July and, like me, only shares her content with close friends. “I don’t add people I’m not close to,” Decugis says.

Isabel, a 22-year-old analyst in Boston, agrees. “I like BeReal because there’s no need to add acquaintances or friends of friends. I only add people I’m completely comfortable sharing random moments with and unfiltered. Because it’s such a small community, there’s always a ton of good banter on the daily posts,” she explains.

And investors are listening. By June 2021, the social media app had raised $30 million in Series A funding. From March to July the application grew from 10,000 to over 400,000 daily users. In November. La Hoyathe Georgetown student newspaper, reported “BeReal is the latest social media craze to take over Georgetown.”

Although BeReal is still in its infancy, it is gaining momentum. According to Lexi Sydow, chief information officer at data.ai, BeReal has been downloaded 5 million times worldwide – and 3.2 million of those downloads occurred in the first quarter of 2022. As of March 29, 2022, BeReal ranked 4th in App Store downloads in the US, UK and France after Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.

Everyone I’ve spoken to who uses the app loves it. “I only have four or five friends from my hometown there,” Kelly Young, a 22-year-old student at Drexel University, told Mashable. “[They] all live far from me. BeReal is a really fun way for us to stay in touch, and it’s the most realistic glimpse into what our lives are like now.”

If you miss the notification, you’re allowed to post late, but you can’t see your friends’ images until you post yours. By doing so, the app also avoids the problem of cloaking. You are required to post content in order to view the content. Additionally, the app has a more involved version of appreciation. You can’t just double tap to like a photo, in order to reply to a friend’s content you have to take a selfie or a reaction comment.

The once-a-day posting model also means you only have to check the app once a day, and there’s no worry about missing content because not everyone you follow is posting. only once a day as well. Therefore, it’s not a bad time like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok are right now.

Not only does BeReal leverage Instagram’s photo sharing feed, but it also incorporates the ephemeral nature of Snapchat by resetting your feed daily. Like Snapchat, the app keeps your previous posts in “Memories” that only you have access to.


[It’s] a really fun way for us to keep in touch, and it’s the most realistic glimpse into what our lives are like now.

The app has privacy issues. It automatically posts your location with your photo unless you disable the feature in your settings, and it has its own version of Snapmaps. By having you post every day, the app can accumulate data that paints a picture of your habits, much like its competitors. The application undertakes not to sell your data to third partiesbut it has raised concerns among its user base.

“It’s weird because it shares your exact location, like your coordinates,” Alisha Pandya, a 21-year-old student at UC Berkeley, told Mashable. “It’s not just your city or your general location, but it’s your house on the map, so the app is a bit suspicious.”

But that didn’t stop students from downloading it. BeReal is already a hit in France, where it currently ranks in the top 10 most downloaded social networking applications on the App Store; in the United States, it is steadily climbing the ranks of the top 100. Last week, it was the 80th most downloaded social networking app, and it is now ranked 61st. It gained traction through savvy marketing and word of mouth, bringing in TikTok and academic ambassadors to help popularize the app.

Perhaps the appeal of an entirely new social media platform is that it hasn’t been invaded by nosy friends of friends, former colleagues and celebrities. Your feed still feels intimate, and in today’s social media landscape, that feels drastic. Because as soon as you start seeing unfiltered selfies of people you barely know, an app loses all its charm and potential.

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