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  • Talon Staff

To BeReal or Not to BeReal

“No like, no followers, no ads, no filters,” declared co-founder Alexis Barreyat upon the launch of the app BeReal. It is not a charity, however, and Barreyat is planning monetization. So what exactly is authenticity worth, if anything at all, in the social media market?

The elevator pitch for BeReal is that you receive a notification once a day to “be real” and take a photo of yourself with the front and back cameras of your phone. A timer runs to discourage self-styling and promote authenticity—”late” posts are marked, and you can only delete a posted photo once a day.

BeReal lies at the crossroads between regular social media use and no use. It is a platform cleanse for some users and a small space to connect with friends for others (the latter group is disconnected from the goals of the former). BeReal does not have very expansive functions, but it has branding and a firm central philosophy: authenticity. In any effort to grow, however, BeReal must parallel the activities of its predecessors without tarnishing this philosophy.

Instagram and TikTok, on the other hand, have far smaller qualms about authenticity. They have misinformation policies, but their platforms are not predicated on principle. I hypothesize that the user base of BeReal skews toward the platform cleanse group (especially since its initial surge in popularity in 2022 can be traced to a series of viral TikToks). Over time, there will be a gradual erosion of the app’s commitment to minimalism as it shifts toward more traditional features of digital platforms to satisfy this market.

In general, the digital media landscape does not appreciate simplicity, and I don’t project that BeReal can be the exception. Netflix, the largest and longest running streaming service, mocked the use of ads for years. Yet the loss of hundreds of subscribers sent its stock tumbling and turned the platform on to an ad-supported tier, as well as aggressive password-sharing crackdowns. Fads in social media, too, are swarmed by established platforms to retain user engagement—Instagram introduced Stories to suppress the growth of Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube added short-form video content to compete with TikTok, TikTok launched TikTok Now to cut off BeReal, and so on and so forth.

BeReal is unique among major social media platforms in that it initiates the timetable for engagement. Users are called to the app, as opposed to Instagram and TikTok, where you may scroll for hours at your leisure. In that way, BeReal could persist passively—a platform that occupies only a few minutes of your time where users celebrate their raw experiences before returning to more polished profiles. That being said, if BeReal were to become the designated space for authenticity, the app would be a nominal outlet for genuine experiences as it complemented the curated style of Instagram.

At a certain point, BeReal is not pushback to larger-than-life social media; it is a platform “styled” against but directly benefiting from it.

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