BeReal is trending on Twitter, and to the uninitiated, it's basically this new photo-sharing social media app that is the latest obsession for Gen Z.
With a notification that says it's "Time to BeReal", BeReal is regarded as among "anti-Instagram" apps that claims to make up for the lack of authenticity and the ad-free experience that characterizes traditional social media platforms like those owned by Facebook and Snapchat.
As the name suggests, it requires users to be authentic on the platform daily by sharing what they're doing the moment they are randomly prompted by the app to snap a pair of unfiltered photos within a two-minute time frame (though the window to post can last for hours).
When posting, the app takes a picture through your front and back camera at the same time, giving your followers a glimpse of what you look like and where you are at that given moment.
If a user posts outside of the two-minute window, they will be considered late and will not be able to see the photos uploaded by others until after they’ve posted, only by such time, they will gain access to the app’s Discover section.
If you don't like the photo you posted, you're still free to retake it but the app will indicate the number of times you retook an image. It will also reveal the number of times a BeReal moment was captured before posting.
There is no ‘like’ option available on the app. Users can only react to other posts by using their RealMoji, or an emoji of their selfie mimicking an emoji reaction. Aside from the no filter experiences, posts cannot be edited and follower count isn't also publicly available.
Like an Instagram story, a Snapchat snap, and a Facebook Myday, all of the photos disappear the next day.
To critics, BeReal's authenticity agenda capitalizes on nostalgia for the early days of social media, when people didn't manufacture themselves as much, compared to today's attention economy.
"What is real, though, and what is fake when we spend so much of our time tethered to screens? In a commodified social media landscape, authenticity is as much of a marketing buzzword as it is an on-screen value, touted by people, brands, and, of course, apps," culture reporter Terry Nguyen wrote for Vox, scrutinizing BeReal's assumption that the "authentic self can be divulged under the right conditions — that catching users off-guard will lead them to abandon all pretense."
She warned that the hype on BeReal may be fleeting given its insular nature that is entirely dependent on one's circle of friends' commitment to using the platform, and it being "nostalgia bait" for Instagram's ad-free days.
"BeReal’s daily reminder tries to enforce a reflexive instinct to post and use the app, similar to how Snapchat users feel beholden to maintain their streaks. These alerts, however, seem more contrived than spontaneous. They run counter to not only BeReal’s stated mission but to the psychological literature on authenticity and self-perception," Nguyen said.
"BeReal’s attempt at curating an authentic space is far from perfect, but it gets at an unanswerable ontological question: Are we ever truly ourselves on the internet?" she added.