A French socialite media platform launched by Alexis Barreyat in 2020, Be realistic recently topped the free download charts on iOS, surpassing TikTok. The app initially gained popularity overseas, then attracted dedicated posters on American college campuses. The Americans are now its primary user base. BeReal’s recent surge in downloads can be attributed in part to a number of viral TikToks referring to the social media app.
BeReal prompts users at a random time each day, encouraging them to take a photo and send it to their friends. You only have two minutes to answer, and a two-photo collage is captured from your front and rear cameras.
The pristine, curated Instagram aesthetic has been declared dead multiple times, and BeReal capitalizes on a continued search for authenticity on social media, whatever that means. The company has received millions of dollars from investors like Andreessen Horowitza prominent player in Silicon Valley, throwing money at Clubhouse, OpenSea and Substack in recent years.
In February, Harvard student Mariah Norman declared photo dump on Instagram a passé endeavor so mainstream that the president does it. She loved the unfiltered feed on BeReal, writing: “Because there’s no time to find the perfect pose or background, the content you engage with on the app is charmingly mundane, yet extraordinarily authentic and creative.” Norman also mentioned that BeReal sponsored a party with free admission for Harvard students who interacted with the app.
Jules Kourelakos, student at Duke University, pointed out that while BeReal seems less performative than other social media options, users continue to capture a posed version of themselves. Although the search for authenticity online can be fruitless, the app is well designed and easy to download.
You need an account to get started with BeReal, which is available for iPhone and Android. Once you’ve downloaded the app, it will request access to your contacts to connect with friends who may already be using the service (you can decline if you wish). Unless your Rolodex is full of trendsetters, many of your friends may not be using the platform yet. The app will ask for your name, birthday and phone number. Leaving time-sensitive notifications on is essential if you aim to post within the daily two minutes.
While creating an account, BeReal encourages new users to snap their first post on the spot. Your post each day is the charge to see friends’ posts on the discovery feed. Don’t feel like writing? Well, you’ll have to spend time on another app because everyone’s photos will be unavailable on BeReal until you make a contribution for the day. Users are allowed to share time-stamped photos after the window has passed, but all photos are treated as late homework with a “15 minutes late” disclaimer emblazoned across the top.
To create a post, the app must have access to your smartphone cameras. After turning the camera around to see both sides with the back button and turning on the flash if necessary by pressing the lightning bolt, tap the circle at the bottom center of the screen to take your photos. Even for late BeReals, a two-minute timer is on-screen and counts down as you take (or repeat) photos.