My friend and I were hiking along a beautiful coastal trail when her phone chimed. “Oh, time for my BeReal!” she exclaimed. She pulled her phone from her fanny pack, snapped a photo of our ocean view, then beckoned me for a quick selfie with her. A few seconds later, she put her phone away.
I had no idea what had just happened.
As she explained what BeReal was, my first reaction was, “Great. Another social media app. Just what the world needs.” She described it as being a more genuine version of Instagram, but I didn’t get the appeal.
Then I saw my teen and young adult kids using it. Then I downloaded it myself. Then I got it.
The beauty of BeReal is in its limitations. You can only post one time per day. There are no filters. No businesses to follow. No ads or sponsored content. Not even any DMs to slide into. You connect with your friends, and their daily BeReals are all you see in your feed.
A BeReal is simply a two-way photo—a snapshot of whatever the person is doing, wherever they are, and an inset selfie of them while they’re doing it. Everyone is prompted to post a BeReal at the same time with a two-minute window, though you can actually post any time after the chime rings. You can’t view anyone else’s posts until you share yours.
You can add a short caption once it’s posted, and your friends can react to your BeReal post with a “RealMoji” (an emoji you make with your own face) or a comment.
That’s it. That’s the whole app experience. Refreshingly simple.
And people have been flocking to it. The app was launched in 2020 and it kicked off 2022 with 920,000 monthly active users. By August, that number had skyrocketed to 73.5 million, according to Business of Apps. As TechCrunch reports, some of that growth was due to intentional, paid promotions among college students, but I’ve witnessed huge organic growth in my own social circles in the past six months. BeReal has quickly become my teen and young adult kids’ and their friends’ favorite social media app.
That tracks, since according to Statista, 90% of BeReal users are younger than 35. So what is it about the app that has Millennials and Gen Z so hooked? According to the young people I’ve spoken to, they like that the photos aren’t staged, there’s no pressure to post or comment and it’s “not addictive.” There’s no algorithm trying to suck you into whatever it thinks will keep you scrolling, and because people can only post once a day, it’s naturally limited in the amount of time you want to spend on it.
It’s also just fun to see what people are really up to in their everyday lives, even the mundane stuff. It feels far removed from the filtered, perfectly posed and curated photos people share on other apps, and you don’t have to wade through people’s political diatribes or sponsored content to use it. Kids can connect with their friends near and far, sharing silly daily life stuff without fretting over “likes” or trolls or other social media drama.
In other words, the kids who grew up with social media are tired of feeling overwhelmed by the over-edited, over-advertised, over-argumentative nature of it. BeReal feels genuine, which is exactly what its creators, French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, intended.
The big question is whether or not the app will be sustainable as it is in the long run. Barreyat and Perreau have managed to avoid media interviews, so it’s hard to know what their plans are for the future. There has been some buzz about adding some paid features rather than relying on advertising, so we’ll see. But in the meantime, it’s a lovely respite from the fray and a brilliant way to keep young people connected online without the pitfalls of traditional social media.