Pause yourself for using BeReal like Instagram

Some of you are using BeReal precisely the way it was intended to be used. For that, we applaud you. But some of you are using it very, very wrong. You people know precisely who you are.

For those unfamiliar, BeReal is a social network that’s an anti-social network in many ways. The app sends a notification to all users at a randomized time, informing them that it’s “time to BeReal.”

In theory, users open BeReal immediately after receiving this notification, take a photo of whatever they happen to be doing at that time, and post it to the app. You can’t see anyone else’s BeReals until you post your own.

On paper, it’s the opposite of Instagram. The latter app is notoriously curated — people fill it with beautiful, carefully edited photos of themselves doing glamorous things with large groups of adoring friends. You post your best moments and, crucially, do not post anything else.

But BeReal can’t be curated — or at least, the intention is that it not be. It’s the real you. A scroll through Instagram may make you feel like you’re the only one spending your Friday night watching Netflix on your bed while everyone else is out on the town, but a scroll through BeReal reminds you that you’re not alone. It’s oddly comforting — it’s perhaps the most effective online cure for FOMO there is.

But BeReal has a fatal flaw that you believe is heavily interfering with its mission: the BeReal notification doesn’t expire. So while you may not post a BeReal before the information goes out, you may post one any time after the message goes out.

Consequently, very little stops people from using this app the same way they use Instagram stories. Regardless of when the BeReal notification goes out, they consistently post at 8 PM or so every night when they are inevitably doing something exciting. And, they wind up with a BeReal full of artistic photos of coffee cups, martini glasses, beach sunsets, and selfies with friends in glitzy locales — a curated reel intended to impress their followers. In other words, Instagram stories.

We are not always available when the notification appears — you post BeReals that are a few hours late from time to time. But the individuals you are speaking about are not doing that. Instead, they consistently ignore the BeReal notification’s timing and choose to make their posts at the high points of their day. You do not think this is a blurry or subjective line. You know if you are in this category. You know it very well.

The instincts that made Instagram the FOMO monster do not magically disappear when you’re using a different app. Still, you believe this behavior is harmful — it’s antithetical to the appeal that drew many of us to BeReal in the first place.

And indeed, that’s why you joined BeReal, too, hypothetical BeReal Instagrammer. You joined because you had an itch that Instagram wasn’t scratching. Some of you wanted to see through the internet’s cesspool of curated bullshit, too — and that’s the only thing BeReal has promised to provide.

But that needs to be a two-way street. You open the mundane parts of my life to you because you hope that you will open yours to me. We can be each other’s cure for the FOMO — we are our best weapons.

BeReal users feel comfortable showing their boring, ugly selves on the app because other people are doing it, too. We blend into the sea. There is power in solidarity. The more the app is overrun with parties and artsy wine cocktails, the less comfortable everyone who likes to use it for its deliberate purpose will feel. And then we will all lose the unique appeal that drew us to BeReal in the first place. We will have a much worse, much buggier Instagram on our hands.

BeReal is a French social media app pitched in 2020. Alexis Barreyat developed it. After a couple of years of relative anonymity, it gained rage rapidly in early and mid-2022.

Its main feature is an everyday notification that encourages users to transmit a photo of themselves and their immediate surroundings given a haphazardly selected two-minute window every day. However, critics noted its emphasis on authenticity, which some felt crossed the line into mundanity.

The app was developed by Alexis Barreyat, a former employee of GoPro, and gained popularity with Gen Z in early 2022. It spread foremost on college campuses due to a paid ambassador program. It had been downloaded more than 6.8 million times by April, with most of the downloads coming in 2022. In addition, BeReal received a $30 million funding round from Andreessen Horowitz. As of July 2022, the app estimated over 20 million global installs, and the company was valued at $600 million.

Once per day, BeReal simultaneously informs all users that a two-minute window to publish is open. It asks users to make a post (understood eponymously as a “BeReal”) which, using obligatory accompanying photos from the front and back cameras, delivers a visual depiction of what they are doing at that moment. The given window alters daily and is not previously known to users before receiving the notification.

While on time, BeReals display the time it was uploaded; belatedly, BeReals uploaded after the two-minute window display only how late the poster is. Other users can also notice how many attempts the sign took to take the BeReal and their location when the BeReal was taken.

Users only acquire one chance to delete their BeReal and post another; they cannot post better than one at any time. As well as commenting, users can also respond to other users BeReals with “RealMojis,” recreations of emojis taken with the front-facing camera. Users are also informed who has screenshotted their BeReal.

Because of its daily engagement cycle has been compared to Wordle, which gained popularity earlier in 2022. BeReal has been designed to compete with Instagram while simultaneously de-emphasizing social media addiction and overuse.

The app does not allow photo filters or other editing and has no advertising or follower counts. Marketing material from the company cautioned that the app “can be addictive” but also declared that “BeReal won’t make you famous.