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New Alternative Social Media App (BeReal) Built To Avoid Worst Issues on Instagram, Etc.

Lets get real about BeReal.

Hand hold phone with Be Real app open. Image: Alyssa Shotwell & BeReal.

An alternative to Instagram, Snapchat, and—to a degree—TikTok is climbing the App Store’s charts: BeReal. Currently number three in “social networking” at a 4.8/5 rating and on a steep incline in download numbers since February, the app is placing itself in firm opposition to the other big social media apps. One part of the description reads, “BeReal won’t make you famous, if you want to become [an] influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”

The app encourages (and, in some cases, forces) users to not utilize filters, plandids, and other curated elements that make Instagram a place for influencers to sell a product or lifestyle in an often disingenuous way. You take a photo and go. This more relaxed approach to social media that encourages being real (while being safe) could avoid issues of increased depression and bad self-image that are linked to Facebook-related apps.

Speaking of the Facebook/Meta, BeReal rolled out very similarly to Facebook. University students in France (the country where this originated) got access. When BeReal became available to U.S. users, the app took off at top universities. hi, tech reported that BeReal hosted events and parties at Georgetown and Harvard for students who downloaded the app and got friends to join.

How does the app work?

(Sony)

Every user will get a notification once per day (at a different time, mind you) to post on the app. You will then have only two minutes to capture an image. However, if you miss it, you can still submit a photo, but the app will indicate to others how long you took it after the set time. You cannot use filters, and you cannot see anyone’s images unless you post. Once you see others’ images, there is no “likes” system, but you can comment and leave a photo reaction.

When you take a photo or video, the front and back cameras also capture images simultaneously. So, if the image is of a scenic view, a rounded rectangle of your face will also be on the photo. This prevents people from setting up too much of a stage and encourages authenticity. If you are around other people, be mindful of this, though! FOMO is not enough of a reason to be rude to people.

Speaking of paying attention to your surroundings, there is a map feature where you can share your location with select people. Like other apps that allow this, just be careful of who has this info because the timestamp feature and what you’re wearing already give away a lot of information.

Is this too good to be true?

Steve Buscemi says "How do you do, fellow kids?" while poorly dressed as a youth.
(NBC)

At least at this stage of BeReal, I’ve found no clear “catch.” Sustainability-wise, there are no ads, and the app is free to join. Some apps like Instagram and TikTok grew their audience before adding ads. Currently, founders Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau rely on corporate investors to fund BeReal. According to Market Realist, roughly $30 million have been raised from investors that include “Web3 crypto backer Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, DST Global, Kima Ventures, and New Wave.”

Speaking as a person very concerned about the prevalence, biases, and weaponization of facial recognition technology, the amount of face images involved is worrying. From daily reaction photos to the dual front and back images, that is a part of my data I think about a lot. These issues do exist with Facebook and Instagram, so this is not me saying this is a reason BeReal isn’t as good, but just that they might feature more of the harmful elements than they let on, or they will in the future. The EU is stricter with technology privacy laws, but the U.S. version might fall out of its jurisdiction.

I don’t personally deal with many issues with the apps it’s directly competing with because I’ve never been on Snapchat, and I’m on Instagram maybe once or twice a week. I learn a little, catch up with people, see memes, and collect art references (like Pinterest). While I like Instagram miles better than Facebook, I will say it being part of Meta’s offerings and now pushing content on my feed from people I don’t follow is keeping me off the app more often. So, I might give BeReal a try.

(image: Alyssa Shotwell & BeReal)

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(she/her) Award-winning digital artist and blogger with experience and an educational background in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. A resident of the yeeHaw land, she spends most of her time watching movies, playing video games, and reading.