A new social media app has arrived on campus and is encouraging students to show off their unfiltered lives.
Unlike classic social media platforms that can be curated and edited, BeReal users take an uncurated snapshot of their day no matter what they’re doing — whether they’re studying, partying or even using the bathroom.
The app sends all of its users a synchronized notification at a random time of day. Then, users have a two-minute window to photograph whatever they are doing before their post is considered “late.” Until users post their own BeReal, they can’t see their friends’ posts.
BeReal captures images from a phone’s front- and back-facing cameras simultaneously, offering a view of both the poster’s face and their surroundings.
Founded in 2020 by French entrepreneurs Kevin Perreau and Alexis Barreyat, BeReal initially gained a foothold in France and only later expanded its user base to the United States, according to reporting from Mashable. The app is meant to showcase “life … without filters,” according to its description in Apple’s App Store.
James Dahlen ’23 said he downloaded the app after seeing his friends get a notification at a party instructing them to take their BeReal.
“The notification came up and (everyone) started shouting (at the party). They showed me the app and I took a scroll through it and downloaded it,” he said.
He said it’s “an oddly reassuring thing to see” that most of the time, his friends are not doing anything special.
“People aren’t lying about what they’re doing,” added Becca Ward-Diorio ’23, who said she downloaded the app after hearing her friends talk about it. She finds using the platform “fun” so far, though she said she is still picking up its nuances, such as a feature that allows users to react to their friends’ posts with selfies.
She also added that the front-facing photos catch her “off-guard.” Still, she noted that she only follows her friends on the app, so there’s “no one (she’s) trying to show off to.”
If there were to be changes made to the app, Cecile Schreidah ’24 said she would want the ability to take videos, while Dahlen said he would want to better curate his feed, putting his close friends at the top.
All three students interviewed by The Herald said they felt BeReal would never replace bigger photo-based social media apps like Instagram or Snapchat.
BeReal “just kind of earned a spot in my suite of social media rotations,” Dahlen added.
BeReal has engaged college ambassadors at campuses across the United States to expand its user base in the country, according to Schreidah, who says she was personally recruited by the company as an ambassador.
BeReal declined to comment on its growth or recruitment on college campuses in an email to The Herald, though the BeReal website features a page describing a paid college ambassador program. Schreidah said she was contacted by an ambassador for the app via Instagram direct messages in June 2021. The ambassador encouraged Schreidah to promote BeReal at Brown through monetary incentives: For every person she referred to the app, she would receive $30. Every person who downloaded the app and sent a review to Schreidah would in turn receive $50.
“I thought it was a scam,” Schreidah said. Still, Schreidah thought it was worth a try, so she made a list of people to reach out to on campus and posted about the incentive on her Snapchat story. Schreidah then sent out a standardized message to those who expressed interest instructing them how to download the app and to send a review to her.
“I only recruited (about) ten students,” she said. Those ten students received a Venmo or PayPal transfer of $50 from BeReal, according to Schreidah. After about a month of work, Schreidah said she stopped serving as an ambassador for the app and promptly deleted it. Few students were using it at the time, and even those that did have accounts typically forgot to post.
After the lack of interest over the summer, Schreidah said she was “really shocked” that the app has become a “huge” trend on campus. Still, she refuses to redownload it, citing how much time she spends on social media already.
“I feel like all these apps kind of have an expiration date,” Schreidah said. “After a while, kids might get kind of used to it.”