How the BeReal app wants to impose authenticity on us

No filters, no staging. In theory, the new social media platform BeReal sounds like a refreshing change from Instagram, Tiktok and Co. But how true is that really?

Real moments at BeReal? The social network wants to avoid skilful curating.

Gaëtan Bally / Keystone

Anyone who opens the Instagram app is right in the middle of the stream of images of flawlessness. Feline eyes framed by curling lashes. A skin as if softened. But social media fatigue is real.

This weariness has led more and more people to yearn for a dystopia of transparency. Meanwhile, BeReal describes itself as “not another social network”. The app is committed to absolute authenticity. It promises the state of maximum naturalness – and to show it to everyone. But how real is BeReal really?

The product of two Frenchmen, Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, was launched two years ago, but it has only been widely used for a few months. Because since Instagram and Co. have increasingly relied on content from influencers instead of personal circles of friends, many fans have criticized the platform. Meanwhile, BeReal wants to make it possible to participate in the real life of your friends. The idea behind it is as simple as it is new: every day at a different time, the user is prompted to post a photo.

When the time comes, all users from Europe will receive a prompt at the same time, and a two-minute countdown will start. Regardless of where they are and what they are doing, they should post a shot during this time slot. A snapshot with no filter, no selection, no time lag.

authenticity in two minutes

Once the instruction pops up, you only have a few minutes. Two minutes is too short for getting your hair done or positioning yourself gracefully on a deckchair. There is no trial and error, the first snapshot counts and is published. There is another chance the next day.

Another highlight: when taking a picture, not only the rear but also the front camera is activated – as every user has to find out painfully on the first try – so that a simultaneous double photo is created. However, the selfie mode is not shown in the preview, so that the possibility of a quick correction of the strands of hair or the remains of food between the teeth is eliminated. According to BeReal’s slogans, such images, as a mix of ambient photo and selfie, reveal “who your friends really are in their daily lives”.

The users show pictures from their everyday life and unfiltered truths.

The users show pictures from their everyday life and unfiltered truths.


The backstage area on social media

If you want to look at photos of other users, you must also post photos. If you want to see something, you have to deliver it yourself. In the “Discovery” feed, images can be shared publicly if desired, but even after swiping for a long time it becomes clear that the possibilities are limited: one chin photo follows the other.

The pictures offer everyday insights into private places, show people cooking or at work. BeReal looks like the backstage area of ​​our carefully designed stages.

Some users point to the similarities to Snapchat — the “no filter” aesthetic is nothing entirely new. Although the app focuses on snapshots, people still feel pressured to post something that is “not boring”.

Andrea Mach di Palmstein, who is responsible for the growth of the app, emphasized in a Linkedin post that “BeReal stands for no social pressure, no social comparison in social media”. However, the friends can vote on the “photo of the day” about the reactions. So this is where the usual social media nature comes in. If there is no reaction at all, the thoughts creep in: Wasn’t the picture spectacular enough?

Andrea Mach di Palmstein emphasizes the advantages of BeReal.

Andrea Mach di Palmstein emphasizes the advantages of BeReal.


Self-portrayal against banal fleetingness

Apparently, BeReal not only promotes perfectionism, but also ingenuity. The cultural technique of authenticity established here takes on a central value in the cycle of tiresome self-portrayal. When the cell phone vibrates, it’s time for naturalness.

BeReal also uses mechanisms that are already known in the social media world: The app picks up on the development from staged self-portrayal to banal ephemerality. As with the popular formats Snapchat or Instagram stories, the pictures are only online for 24 hours. So it’s no longer about an endless outbidding competition, but rather about conveying a momentary attitude to life.

BeReal seems to have hit a nerve with this: The user numbers are up to July increased to 7.9 million. However, it is also crucial for the future of BeReal whether the app will be big and popular enough for an established service to incorporate its basic idea. Given the attention BeReal is currently garnering, the meta-corporation is lurking on its flanks, looking for ways to copy core elements. Instagram has already introduced a “dual camera mode” based on exactly the same idea. Here, too, it is clear that people imitate wherever possible.

Forced Authenticity

BeReal lacks the clout for the social media revolution. Because up to now there have been comparatively few users on the platform. The network is also of little interest to influencers. An app that is viewed only once a day isn’t necessarily what advertisers dream of.

Ultimately, even with BeReal, the supposedly enforced authenticity, non-staging, turns into staging again, just with more time pressure. The app could meet a fate similar to that of the Clubhouse live audio app, and disappear from the scene as quickly as it ever got a chance. The hit of the time passed quickly, and the app is now a relic from the past.

So, is a new social media platform the answer to the never-ending digital maelstrom of content saturation, or is it just hype that’s quickly waning?

Let’s be realistic.

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