What is BeReal? Anti-Instagram photo-sharing app forces users to share the truth

With no filters, retouched photos or random scrolling allowed, Gen Z’s new favourite app promotes authenticity by demanding realistic snapshots of users’ lives

Users on photo-sharing app BeReal can only post realistic imagery without filters or Photoshop. Photo: BeReal, Unsplash / Solen Feyissa
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If you’ve ever scrolled through Instagram and come away hating your face, your body and your whole life, then you'll probably be glad to know about BeReal, a photo-sharing app that's shaking up social media by ensuring users only represent their true selves online.

The app aims to “make people feel good about themselves and their lives” by removing all the ways in which users can alter their looks, lives and locations.

BeReal co-founder Alexis Barreyat says it was created in order to generate “genuine” interactions online.

The number of monthly users of BeReal, which was founded in 2020, have been increasing steadily, and this year its monthly users increased by 315 per cent, according to Business Insider.

BeReal doesn’t have any filters and it doesn't allow users to post existing photos from their camera reels that may have been touched up. All images posted have to have happened in the here and now.

How does BeReal work?

The app sends out an unscheduled notification at a random time each day, giving the user two minutes to take and upload a photo of themselves or their surroundings.

Images can’t be edited on the app, and existing photos can’t be imported, meaning no Photoshopped pictures make it on to the feed.

The goal of the app is for users to capture themselves in the moment in as realistic a way as possible.

There’s also a block on accessing other people’s images, which can only be seen once you post your own. Your photos are only available to people you have given access to.

With authenticity a favourite buzzword of Gen Z, the app has been praised by users for creating “aggressively normal” feeds that better reflect real life.

'Current social media apps do not connect us'

A 2021 study by Instagram's owner, Meta, showed the company was aware of the app's detrimental effects on teenagers' mental health. Photo: Unsplash / Katka Pavlickova

A 2021 study by Instagram's owner Meta found that the photo-sharing site was having a devastating effect on teenagers’ mental health and body image.

Results from the study, which were given to the Wall Street Journal, showed that 40 per cent of teenage Instagram users in the US and UK who reported feeling “unattractive” said their feelings started when they began using Instagram.

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” read the study. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

The daily diet of heavily filtered faces, “perfect” bodies and influencers who seem to be permanently on holiday, have left younger people unable to differentiate between what is real and what has been curated or Photoshopped.

However, social media influencers have defended themselves, insisting the images they share are a “highlights reel” and are not to be confused with their day-to-day lives.

BeReal, says Barreyat, is the “response to a feeling that current social apps are doing everything else but connecting us with our friends and family”.

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Updated: May 23, 2022, 2:29 PM