The Rise and Fall of BeReal

Why BeReal Became so Popular and its Decline

The BeReal notification could come out at any time throughout the day, be it sitting at dinner, out with friends, at work, or any other random moment over the course of the day. When the notification is released, one has two minutes to take a BeReal before they are flagged as late. As an app so focused on authenticity, it is almost a must to try and post the BeReal within the two minute time period. 

For those unfamiliar with the app, BeReal was released in 2020 by a French company. Yet, it failed to grow popular until early to mid-2022 when it skyrocketed for its platform of authenticity and realness. The concept of BeReal is that once a day, at any randomly selected time, a notification is sent out to all of its users prompting them to post a BeReal. This BeReal consists of two pictures: a picture from your back camera and a picture of your front camera. Through this, the app intends to capture what you look like and what you are doing at that moment, emphasizing realness and legitimacy over other social platforms like Instagram that are so curated. Without posting a BeReal, everyone else’s responses are hidden, preventing users from watching what everyone else is doing without sharing themselves. After posting, the user then has access to see what all of their friend’s have posted, able to scroll through and see the two pictures posted for the BeReal as well as the time they posted their BeReal. After posting, the user is also able to react to their friend’s BeReal’s, sending a picture of their face under an emoji. A weird concept in theory, it quickly grew in use because it allowed users to keep in contact and up to date with their friends in a once a day check-in of sorts.

Criticisms came up with the many privacy concerns posed by BeReal however. It is important to note that someone cannot view your BeReal until you have accepted their follow request. Yet, the BeReal itself offers a deep insight into your life- something that could potentially be a scary prospect. This is because the BeReal shows what you are seeing and what you look like when you post the BeReal as it takes a picture with the front and back cameras. More significantly, if one has their location settings on then the BeReal shows the location of the user at the time the BeReal was taken, giving both the location and timestamp of a certain user. This raised many questions surroundings its use and how it could potentially be used as a dangerous resource to track people. This was mitigated by refusing to allow any users that you are not friends with to follow you, yet it serves as a potential risk either way.

Despite these privacy concerns, BeReal became really popular in 2022. Especially over the summer, people were dedicated to their daily posting of their BeReal. When the BeReal came out, you had two minutes to post your response. After those two minutes, you could still post a response but it would mark it as late and by how much time. Additionally, after beginning to take the BeReal, you had two minutes to take the BeReal, and it would record how many times one retook the picture, with the goal of authenticity for everyone. 

As any trend, BeReal came and went. I think it became really popular over the summer because it let people stay in touch with people that they may otherwise not see often over the break from school. It let people show off the interesting things that they were doing over their summer and the places that they were traveling to. Yet, it also allowed users to show the boring parts of their life too: for Boris Pekar it was the almost daily BeReal of him working on his college applications. Showing all the random parts of one’s day, many users’ BeReals were with their friends or at work.

BeReal began to decline in popularity when the school year resumed. Since so much of one’s day was consumed by time at school, I think it became boring and repetitive since so many people’s BeReals were just them at school. It no longer offered the exciting prospect of showing off the cool, random stuff that you were doing and became more of a chore, seeming insignificant with so much else going on with school starting back once again. 

That said, BeReal still remains a constant for a smaller group of dedicated users. While it has declined in use, it is still used by a decently sized number of people and it remains fun to post every now and then. While it is no longer used daily by the majority of users that enjoyed it over the summer, enough people post that you can still stay in contact with some of the people you may not see on a regular basis. Similarly to games like Clash of Clans and Clash Royale, it is enjoyable to log back on and post or rather scroll through all your past memories to remember what all you’ve done over the summer through the lens of your past BeReals.

I believe that this feature, being able to scroll back through and see all of your past BeReals, will allow it to stay popular, even as it declines from the peak it reached over mid-2022. It is fun to be able to see a day by day reflection of all the things you’ve done through your BeReals. I also feel confident that it will be used more often in the summer again, as BeReals become a wide variety once again as opposed to the daily pictures from school.