BeReal Photo-Sharing App Is the Right Kind of Boring

If the social platform can be said to be good in the old days, people were still signing up to see if their friends were there and to understand why – those early moments when their potential was realized but not yet described. Was. This is what is happening now on BeReal, a new platform where people post photos for their friends, with some crucial twists.

Once a day, at an unexpected time, BeReal notifies its users that they have two minutes to post a pair of photos together, one from each phone camera, taken simultaneously. The only way to see what other people have posted that day is to share your own. You can post after the two-minute window closes, but all your friends will be notified that you were late; You can take a photo of your day again, but your friends will know it too. Your friends can respond to your post with something called “RealMoji” – basically a selfie response, visible to all your connections. The next day all the photos disappeared.

Other platforms experiment with manipulative gamification. BeReal Is Game. Although its rules are simple – Post, now – The message is mixed. Don’t be too hard on yourself, just post whatever, It indicates, ticking the clock. And then in the whisper: But don’t try too hard. (BeReal did not respond to email or Twitter requests for comment.)

As a result, the typical BeReal feed class displays photos taken at work, while driving, or getting ready for bed. Many people make funny or boring faces while doing fun or boring activities. That’s great! Or at least not miserable, which is very valuable these days.

Right now, BeReal feels more like a group activity than a complete social platform, a low-stack diversion that, despite its direct demands, doesn’t want more. It’s also a randomly scheduled social break from your other feeds since your day, where scrolling and posting laser labor has gotten worse or worse, as the Wall Street Journal reported last year on Instagram about the toll taken on adolescent mental health. .

One of the founders of BeReal is a former GoPro employee, and he markets his experience as a return to rawness and authenticity, but, at least to this user, he may feel more vague and nostalgic, like reproducing the experience of joining one of them. Dominant social networks when they all still feel like toys. Look, my friends, this is kind of fun, we’re doing this particular thing together. What could go wrong?

BeReal, based in Paris, was founded in 2020, and by April of this year, it had been installed an estimated 7.41 million times, according to Aptopia, an analytics firm. The app has been covered in student newspapers for the past several months, noting its aggressive use of Paid Campus Ambassador; In March, Bloomberg reported that the app was “trending in colleges.”

The company raised about 30 million in venture funds last year, according to Pitchbook, and a recent report from Insider says the next round of funding is expected to be much larger.

Buzzie new apps always pop up. Part of the appeal to using it is never knowing which one will stick. The fact that the application can be something significant makes it attractive; Innovation and unpredictability take away the feeling that, Oh no, Let’s try again, A very high probability that a given platform will explode or go out of existence allows you not to worry too much about what you are doing there and where it will take you. It’s the best in the world, and it doesn’t last long.

My delicate memories of signing up for services that would change the course of history, featuring a desktop computer too; I am, for the purposes of this conversation, old. But when it comes to social networks, nostalgia grows faster and younger.

“Posting on Instagram these days is such a process,” said Brendan Coo, a Stanford undergraduate. Her parents follow her on Snapchat, which she suggests has “reached its peak.” He joined BeReal in December after hearing about it from a friend. He appreciates the fact that it is temporary, low effort and “situational”. It’s less of a replacement for anything other than a social media extra course.

“Even college students find it a little ticklish,” Mr. Coo, 21, said.

Her classmate Oriana Riley, 19, agreed that the app asked her less than others. “I think the one-day aspect of BeReal is that it feels a lot healthier than using other social media,” Ms. Riley said. “It seems less confusing than other social media.”

BeReal is not an anti-social media project at all – it is a commercial social photo-sharing application that seeks to capture the critical mass of users in a mostly familiar illustration. Most apps expect users to eventually generate revenue through advertising, commerce and other types of engagement.

BeReal is currently ad-free, and its terms of use prohibit users from posting their own. But it’s a start-up, and has raised funds from the same companies that invested in Facebook and Instagram more than a decade ago – another app that tapped into a foggy gloom, giving users a film-like photo filter instead. To carry.

What BeReal now offers is a refreshed version of the experience that has been corrupted or eroded elsewhere. But most social apps want to be the next big thing, not a tribute to the last one. Cozy new app that Ms. Riley describes helping her feel “closer to her friends” as her investors’ big pay day hopes.

If Instagram or Snapchat notify all their users every day that they have two minutes to post, that would be considered desperate spam; If TikTok asks its users to share a video before seeing anything else posted that day, as BeReal does, it may not seem like a way to increase trust or intimacy, but it may seem like a breach in the growth hacking service. Messy timely check-ins are fun among friends; On a scale, they are surveillance.

That doesn’t mean the big platform won’t copy BeReal or try to buy it if it continues to grow: Snapchat, Instagram and now Twitter are encouraging users to post less self-consciously with features like Close Friends and Twitter Circle. They also yearn for good old days.

BeReal is vague but makes its points well: If you spend enough time in places that you want to be interesting, you will eventually become bored. Expecting to see extraordinary posts from your friends makes users more generous with each other and with themselves. Photos of keyboards, sidewalks, pets and children, desks and walls, and plenty of screens, all with weak framed faces, don’t look brand new or durable. But now, for some, they feel relieved.

For Context is a column that explores the edges of digital culture.

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