BeReal is the right kind of boring

Once a day, at an unpredictable time, BeReal notifies its users that they have two minutes to post a pair of pictures, one from each phone camera, taken simultaneously. (Photo: NYTimes)
If social platforms can be said to have had good old days, it’s when people were still signing up to see if their friends were there, and to figure out why — those early moments when their potential was felt but not yet described. That’s what’s happening now on BeReal, a new platform where people post photos for their friends, with a few crucial twists.اضافة اعلان

Once a day, at an unpredictable time, BeReal notifies users that they have two minutes to post a pair of pictures, one from each phone camera, taken simultaneously. The only way to see what other people have posted that day is to share your own. You can post after the two-minute window closes, but all your friends will be notified that you were late; you can retake your day’s photo, but your friends will know that, too. Your friends can respond to your posts with a “RealMoji,” basically a selfie reaction, visible to all of your connections. All of the photos disappear the next day.

Other platforms experiment with manipulative gamification. BeReal is a game. Though its rules are simple — post, now — the message is mixed. Don’t be too hard on yourself, just post whatever, it suggests, clock ticking. And then in a whisper: But don’t be a try-hard. (BeReal did not respond to email or Twitter requests for comment.)

As a result, the typical BeReal feed features photos taken in class, at work, while driving, or getting ready for bed. There are lots of people making funny or bored faces while doing fun or boring activities. It’s nice! Or at least not miserable, which is worth a lot these days.

Right now, BeReal feels more like a group activity than a full-fledged social platform, a low-stakes diversion that, despite its direct demands, doesn’t ask for much. It’s a randomly scheduled social break from your day but also from your other feeds, where scrolling and posting have drifted from leisure to labor or worse, as The Wall Street Journal reported last year in a story about the toll Instagram has taken on teenage mental health.

One of BeReal’s founders is a former GoPro employee, and it markets its experience as a return to rawness and authenticity, but, at least to this user, it can feel more gauzy and nostalgic, like a reproduction of the experience of joining one of the dominant social networks when they all still felt like toys. Look, there are my friends, this is sort of fun, we’re doing this specific thing together. What could go wrong?

Posting like there’s no tomorrow

BeReal, which is based in Paris, was founded in 2020, and by this April had been installed an estimated 7.41 million times, according to Apptopia, an analytics firm. The app has been covered over the last several months in student newspapers, which have noted its aggressive use of paid campus ambassadors; in March, Bloomberg reported that the app was “trending at colleges.”

The company raised about $30 million in venture funding last year, according to Pitchbook, and a recent report from Insider said the next round of funding is expected to be much larger.

 “Posting on Instagram these days, there’s such a process,” said Brenden Koo, an undergraduate at Stanford. His parents follow him on Snapchat, which he suggested had “reached its peak.” He joined BeReal in December after hearing about it from a friend. He appreciates the fact that it’s temporary, low effort, and “situational.” It’s less of a replacement for anything else than a social media extracurricular.

“Even college students find it to be a little kitschy,” Koo, 21, said.

His classmate Oriana Riley, 19, agreed that the app asks less of her than others.

“I think the once-a-day aspect of BeReal makes it feel a lot healthier than other social media use,” Riley said. “It feels less entrapping than other social media does.”

The comfort of close friends

BeReal is absolutely not an anti-social-media project — it’s a commercial social photo-sharing app that is attempting to gain a critical mass of users within a largely familiar paradigm. Most apps expect users to produce revenue eventually, through advertising, commerce and other forms of engagement.

BeReal is currently ad-free, and its terms of use prohibit users from posting their own. But it is a startup, and one that has raised funds from some of the same firms that invested more than a decade ago in Facebook and Instagram — another app that tapped into hazy nostalgia, only by giving users filmlike photo filters instead of taking them away.

What BeReal offers now is a fresh version of an experience that has been tainted or worn out elsewhere. But most social apps want to be the next big thing, not a tribute to the last one. The cozy new app that Riley describes as helping her feel “close to her friends” is its investors’ next hope for a big payday.

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