At the beginning of the year, if you saw ⚠️ pop up on your screen you were probably anticipating an emergency alert. Now, it means something totally different in the public consciousness: You have two minutes to take a photo.
Over the course of 2022, BeReal, the photo-sharing app that gives you a minuscule window to take a photo from both your front and back cameras, charmed social media users jaded by Instagram and TikTok with its simplicity and aim for authenticity. Even after surpassing 53 million downloads, achieving the mainstream mark of approval (a Saturday Night Live sketch), becoming Apple’s top iPhone app of the year, and being cloned by its competitors, it hasn’t made any major updates, which is refreshing in an age when every social media platform is trying to be everything for every user.
Much like Wordle, BeReal had everyone jumping on the bandwagon. Just glance around social media when its daily notification randomly strikes, and you can see the scope of the app’s popularity. But as the novelty begins to fade, will BeReal last into the new year?
As much as I delighted in seeing the mundanities of my friends’ days, I stopped using the app at the end of October due to its overwhelming number of daily notifications. Not only does it alert you when it’s time to post, but it also sends you notifications every time one of your friends posts late, inundating you with notifications for the rest of the day. I assumed that most of my peers would also gravitate away from the platform, but for a relatively simple app, people are coming back every day for different reasons.
While its intended purpose is for users to post within the 2-minute window, you can still post later in the day. You just can’t see other people’s photos until you post. Once BeReal started really gaining traction among Gen Z and millennial users this summer, I saw a shift in how people were using it. As more people joined the platform and BeReal circles became bigger, some users started taking their BeReals during the highlight of their day, rather than limiting themselves to the designated posting time. The change in the way people began posting on BeReal changed the “spontaneous” appeal of the app and sparked conversation that instead of a place for being real, BeReal was turning into every platform that came before it: A destination for showing the best version of yourself — a place to be fake.
Used this way, BeReals, much like the 0.5 selfie, became fodder for photo dumps on Instagram and TikTok. BeReals became the new version of the selfie, with people clamoring to get memorable BeReals at concerts and with celebrities. It became a new way to go viral on other, more monetizable platforms.
The most obvious reason to use BeReal is the community of the app and seeing what your friends are doing throughout the day. But one of its main features users keep returning to is “Memories.” Similar to Snapchat, BeReal saves your previous posts to Memories and you can scroll back and see what you were doing every day that you posted. If you decide, like many, to use the app specifically for Memories, you can curate your posts to what you want to remember about each day and store all those moments together in one place. This application of BeReal is reminiscent of the app 1 Second Everyday.
Memories serves as a cool way to look back on your years, reflecting on all of the small moments you might have forgotten — especially when your camera roll is often cluttered with stuff like homework assignments, screenshots you sent a friend, and random photos.
So while BeReal’s initial charm might be waning, it’s transforming into something else entirely: a new form of journaling in the modern age. With 2023 right around the corner, it’s never too late to start.