A new platform has disrupted the social media environment. A few months ago, “BeReal” started to fight the artificiality of social networks, and users couldn’t be more excited about it. Despite being launched in 2020, it didn’t gain recognition until mid-2022. As the name suggests, the platform claims to connect with “your friends for real.” Each day, users are notified simultaneously to capture and share a photo within two minutes. The app uses both the front and back cameras simultaneously, so friends see both the user and its environment. They can’t use a filter or enhance their appearance since the idea is to get the most authentic version of each user. Also, since the content is only visible to a selected circle of friends, people have felt more comfortable trying it. BeReal is already pressuring platforms like Instagram, and now, it is trending as the top free platform in the Apple App store, surpassing Facebook, Discord, and WhatsApp. Since it boomed, its growth has been fueled by up to 21.6 million monthly active users and 2.93 million daily app visits. Even TikTok sees the platform as a threat and, using a perfect “evolvement strategy,(*)” has responded with a copycat version, Now, to retain users.
Could this be a turning point for social media functioning? Well, there are already diverse opinions about if BeReal is the next hit on online platforms; some argue that it is only a matter of time for users to get bored and stage their pictures or go back to edit them. Others see it as a refreshing and different option from usual social networks that promise to renovate the culture around visual content. People’s opinion on the use of social media has been deteriorating due to consequences concerning their usage. As we know, platforms like Instagram are versatile and, among other features, allow users to reach diverse online communities to share their tastes and preferences. Nevertheless, despite their functionality and apparent advantages, they have generated controversies.
A few years ago, shocking news broke in the UK, as authorities reported that a 14-year-old girl committed suicide due to the “negative effects of online content.” Naturally, her parents tried to come after the Silicon Valley corporations that, in their opinion, were to blame for the incident. However, the truth is that, by that time, the awareness of the side effects of social media use was little. The consequences of frequent and overuse of social networks are proven to potentially harm users offline. From mental health issues and interference with data privacy to social media addiction, these are some problems that have generated backlash towards social networks. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to end these issues, but they have triggered further investigations.
To understand how such problems originated, researchers have been interested in one of the most common concerns related to social media. The Pew Research Center surveyed American citizens some years ago regarding cyberbullying. Results showed that “roughly four-in-ten Americans have experienced online harassment,” and those shares are increasing. A group of psychologists concluded that the fact that bullies can hide their identity under a different name and gain some anonymity is one reason that makes it easier for “trolls” to act. In addition, as people are not communicating face-to-face, more disinhibition and a false sense of security encourage these users to leave inappropriate comments. Bullies pick on any topic, religious beliefs, sexual orientation but most often than not physical appearance. As a result, how we look has become an imperative subject in the lives of many users. Beauty standards are more attuned than ever to online influence. Now, people are relying much more on filters to enhance their appearance.
Understanding these current issues of social media platforms can help shed some light on why BeReal has gained such success almost overnight. In the social media landscape, authenticity has become rarer and artificiality more common. As this network doesn’t have a follower counter and limited access to the content (only users that post can see other feeds), people seem more relaxed and are simply having fun with it. However, only time will tell if this new form of sharing information will remain relevant or rather is another passing trend. What is certain is that people are seeking unfiltered moments in their everyday lives.
(*) In TikTok’s mind, if its users like the functionalities of BeReal and can find the same in TikTok, they will have no incentive to leave the platform.