BeReal, as the name of the application says, wants me to publish my truth. Once randomly a day, I’m asked to “be real,” to synchronously capture my unfiltered life through selfies and the phone’s rear camera. Behind the smoke and mirrors of social media stands, as BeReal claims, a distinctly authentic self, waiting to be discovered.
BeReal’s premise is simple. Each day, users are randomly asked to take a photo within two minutes, although the publish window remains open for hours. Users can add a caption, comment on a friend’s posts on the day, and communicate via RealMojis or personalized reaction photos. After posting, two feeds are unlocked, one personalized with friends ’posts and one a Discovery feed showing strangers in the middle of mostly daily tasks. Feeds are updated once a day, and posts expire when the next BeReal alert is sent, presumably that users could drop their phones and live their “real” lives after a few minutes in the app.
BeReal belongs to the genre of “anti-Instagram” applications, news for photo platforms that try to fill a niche of social functions that Instagram lacks. In this case, it is authenticity and an ad-free experience. “BeReal won’t make you famous,” the app states. “If you want to be an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”
Every year or so, a new hot social startup emerges from carpentry with an overconfident vision of a better, more authentic way to be online. It rarely sticks. In early 2021, the du jour app was Dispo, which simulated the experience of using a disposable camera by forcing users to wait for photos to evolve. Dispo used from YouTube celebrates co-founder David Dobrik, but the scandal has led investors to quickly distance themselves from the beginning, even when Dobrik resigned. Later that year, Poparazzi, an app that encouraged users to take pictures of their friends like paparazzi, appeared on TikTok. He was at the top of the App Store for a few weeks, but hype soon subsided.
This year, the most interesting darling with VC is BeReal, who is currently second in number of downloads a social networking app on the App Store, behind TikTok. It was launched in December 2019, but nearly 75 percent, or 7.67 million BeReal downloads, happened this year, according to recent Apptopia data shared with TechCrunch. The app was recently closed in the Serie B funding round and is expected to quadruple its estimate to about $ 630 million, reports Business Insider in early May.
“We always want to connect with friends in a casual way,” said Kristin Merrilees, 20, a Barnard College student and BeReal user who also writes about culture and the internet. “I think Snapchat was that space for a while until my friends stopped using it. Now, BeReal allows you to peek into people’s lives throughout the day. ”
However, what is real and what is false when we spend so much time related to screens? In a commodified social media environment, authenticity is an equally popular marketing word value on the screen, advertised by people, brands and, of course, applications. BeReal assumes that the authentic self can be discovered under the right conditions – that catching the unprepared will lead them to abandon any pretense. And so far, it seems that users are buying his offer.
“It has an old-fashioned sense of early Instagram,” said Sasha Khatami, 21, who works in digital marketing. “I think it’s an interesting move for people like me, who have been used to publishing curated content for so long, and now according to a reminder to publish at the moment.”
BeReal’s subtle marketing strategy led to it becoming a hit among students. Startup pays students to serve as campus ambassadors, refer friends, and organize promotional events. However, apart from being trendy, the concept and key functions of the application are all just not original. It is a timely reinvention FrontBackan app that popularized simultaneous selfies and back-camera photography before closing in 2015. Similarly, its unpredictable daily alert mimics the engagement strategy of Minutiae, an anonymous daily photo-sharing app launched in 2017.
However, BeReal is not a big threat to the established hierarchy of social platforms that have built a decade-old government from our data and attention. BeReal does not intend to remake the social internet. Instead, it operates on the margins of this seemingly unwavering world order, and is supported by some of the same companies that funded Instagram and Twitter. (Despite this, venture capitalists are constantly on the lookout for the next big social startup his history of false beginnings.) Its goal, as with most startups, is to become commercially viable, which means it must eventually find ways to make money from its customers.
The biggest attraction of the application may be its current news and the fact that it is not Instagram or Snapchat. Still, it seems BeReal can’t escape the blow of big social media. Merrilees has noticed an increase in the number of people sharing their BeReals on Instagram. Some are even remixing them in TickTox, as a kind of memory reel. “Many people migrate content to different platforms,” Khatami tells me. “I feel very natural. I started making TikToks from my BeReal photos after seeing people post theirs. ”
Because BeReal is so isolated, its use largely depends on individual circles of friends. Once people start to get tired of it, chances are high that their friends will too. There is a FOMO-ish undercurrent in the hype. People take over BeReal because they are curious. They don’t want to miss it. It’s also a lure for nostalgia, for those old enough to reminisce about Instagram days without ads. John Herrman of the Times found to be “a reproduction of the experience of joining one of the dominant social networks when everyone still felt like toys”. BeReal’s daily reminder seeks to impose a reflective instinct to publish and use the app, much like Snapchat users feel obligated to keep their strings. These warnings, however, seem more fabricated than spontaneous. They are at odds not only with BeReal’s stated mission, but also with the psychological literature on authenticity and self-perception.
Authenticity is a fluid, ever-evolving social construction that cannot be clearly mediated, least of all through application. U critical examination of this concept, researchers Katrina Jongman-Sereno and Mark Leary argued that authenticity “may not be a viable scientific construct,” citing various definitions used by psychologists, sociologists, and behavioral researchers in their assessments. So why does this concern about online authenticity seem so widespread? The Internet balances every difference between irony and honesty, man and machine, real and false. If it’s all a fabrication, why do we care?
Our fixation on publishing authenticity may be a reflection of our concerns about the Internet and the way it weakens our modern sense of self. Authenticity is a metric for measuring content and celebrities, influential people, brands and individuals behind the facade. “Lately, more and more people seem to be noticing and calling for performances on social media, such as‘ casual Instagram ’identified as a trend,” said Maya Man, an artist and programmer from Los Angeles. The notion of authenticity reassures the viewer, assuring him that there is truth in what is seen on the internet. For the poster, it is an ego-driven ideal that is aspired to or embodied – even with the content they are paid to promote.
BeReal’s attempt to curate authentic space is far from perfect, but an irresponsible ontological question arises: Are we ever really alone on the internet? “I think every thing you post online contributes to this distributed internet avatar you’re running,” Mann said. “Performance is not a negative thing. The fact is that you have a mediated audience in mind, even if you publish on a private account. ”
Users who started using the Internet at an early age, or “digital natives”, may share Man’s gestalt theory and are more accustomed to reconciling these different personalities. That’s why people have Twitter alts, finstas and specific accounts dedicated to food, aesthetics or memes. Some of these disparate identities may be considered more authentic than others. Since the online self is divided into multiple platforms and media, authenticity is essential because it is a coherent, ready-made identity for consumption by the public.
U critique of BeReal, Real Life editor Rob Horning says: “An even more realistic version of BeReal would just give your friends access to your cameras and microphones without you knowing it, so they can peek inside you and see how you act when you think no one is watching. If the panoptic view deceives us, only voyeurism liberates us. ”
These voyeuristic conditions were what Man wanted to explore in creation Glance Back, a Chrome extension that unpredictably captures a webcam photo once a day when a user opens a new tab. “I was very upset by the feeling that someone was watching you for a long time without looking back,” she told me. “That’s what my computer feels all day, and we don’t get a chance to deal with its gaze.”
Even under Glance Back’s unexpected voyeurism, what he recorded was no less and no more authentic than BeReal’s self-directed look. Looking back catches me in a distracted state of blurred eyes, while on BeReal I convey a more serious, waking version of myself. After several weeks of observing the contours of my life that are repeated through the browser and the phone, it became obvious to me that authenticity is an easy concern, which is easier to deal with than with our constant supervision. Instead of worrying about our perceived authenticity, perhaps a better question is: Why are we so willing to document ourselves to prove what we already know?