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How to use BeReal, the app that encourages authenticity

The app only lets users post one photo, once a day — and at a randomly generated time. Think of it as the anti-Instagram.

For years, social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have encouraged users to carefully craft and curate idyllic personal brands.

Enter: BeReal, the app whose mission aligns with its title. The app's strict parameters limit users to being as authentic as possible. Open the app, and you won't find filtered photos or carefully manicured feeds — but rather selfies of people in the moment.

Though BeReal debuted in 2020, interest in it recently surged. According to Apptopia, its monthly active users rose to 315 percent this year. 

The app's popularity may be the result of social media's unique pressures.

Influencers and brands who have mastered the art of creating compelling content and sating the algorithm's demands have managed to capitalize on the creator economy's rewards. For all its upsides, though, social media use has been proven to take a toll on self esteem and mental health. In putting on a show to reel in clicks and sustain an audience, many work overtime to conceal and photoshop their real day-to-day.

TikTok, another app that has skyrocketed in popularity recently, also tends to encourage a more laidback appearance among users, but the videos are often labor intensive, especially when compared to BeReal’s simple format.

BeReal could be an antidote — or just another app to keep up with. Below, we're taking on your questions about the app and explaining how it works.

What is BeReal?

BeReal is a French social media app launched by GoPro alum Alexis Barreyat in 2020.

The app's intention is to create candid photos and authentic content.

Part of the app’s appeal is in its fleetingness. There's no option to scroll through feeds endlessly, like with Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Further, BeReal posts aren’t saved to a person’s profile, meaning you can't scan months of past content.

Apptopia notes that, similar to Wordle, BeReal brings back the idea of finiteness on the internet. Once it's gone, you can't get it back.

BeReal works by sending out notifications to post photos — but the time is unpredictable

Unlike other social media apps which allow users to share and receive an unlimited amount of content per day, BeReal is restrictive in its approach.

The app limits users to one post per day (yes, one). Further, users can only post when the app prompts you to post, which varies daily.

To know when it's time to "be real," keep your eye on the lock screen. BeReal sends users a prompt once a day day, informing them their two-minute window to post has begun. From there, the countdown begins.

The unpredictability of the posts often generates its own chatter. "Confused just *how* real #BeReal wants me to be because the past 3 days it has notified me while I’ve been in the shower," one Twitter user wrote.

The app promotes a very specific kind of selfie

The app's photo style encourages candidness. They are always taken with a front-facing and back-facing camera simultaneously, so people can see where you are.

Whereas on Instagram, your selfie might indicate you’re having a fun night out, BeReal’s activation of both cameras could reveal you’re at a party for one plus your cat.

Filters are not part of the app’s features, nor is video.

What happens if you miss a BeReal alert?

You can still post, even if you miss the window. However, followers will be able to see that you posted late. If you retook a photo before posting it on the app, your followers will be able to see this too.

BTW, be careful about screenshots

On that note, the app notifies users when their posts have been screenshotted — and by whom.

Look out for an icon on the bottom right of the photo, which indicates screenshots. Android users see a yellow shutter icon; iPhone users see a number that indicates how many times it's been captured. Tapping the icon reveals who took the screenshot.

Can anyone see your BeReal?

Depends. You can make a private account or a friends-only account. That said, users cannot browse through photos until they’ve posted their own. Think of it as a “you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine” model. You can't lurk; you can only play along.