Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

BeReal – The latest social media craze promoting authenticity, or reenforcing FOMO anxiety?

By Maria Bain, Head of Audience Intelligence, iCrossing UK

Launched in 2020 by French co-founders, BeReal is now the second most downloaded social media app ahead of Facebook, Teleam and Skype (as of March 2022), with the biggest adoption by Gen Z.

BeReal has quickly been labelled the ‘anti-Instagram’ due to its unique daily 2-minute window in which users are prompted to take and post a photo. It’s a refreshing concept that means users can’t pre-plan content, spend hours taking the perfect photo or editing it; they must share a photo of what they’re doing in that random window, simultaneously, with their friends each day.

The randomness of the window means that preplanning content can pretty much go out the door and a more casual, realistic, and relatable social media platform can be enjoyed. Rather than presenting a filtered representation of reality, BeReal appears to offer more intimate, honest insights into people’s ‘unfiltered’ lives.

However, whilst Instagram and Facebook no doubt make people’s lives look artificially glamorous, and beauty and lifestyle standards are becoming increasingly unobtainable, does BeReal have the potential to make people’s lives look incredibly boring?!

What does this new trend mean for agencies and brands? Global brands have spent years placing emphasis on building seamless identities and messaging, methodically curating the image that they want their brand ambassadors to present and promote. With new platforms like BeReal promoting genuine, in the moment, authentic moments – brands using paid media to hijack social media feeds may no longer feel so welcome, or appropriate with Gen Z. Brands need to become far more nimble and reactive, even more so then the more rough and ready ‘behind the scenes’ style content Instagram stories promote.

The perceived ‘casualness’ of pictures taken during the 2-minute window on BeReal could come with its pitfalls too. Are we looking at the next social media craze that increases the social anxiety to be ‘doing something cool’ at every moment of the day? Could the app actually encourage the ‘always on’ culture that arguably the pandemic has exacerbated?

The opportunity for peer judgement on what individuals are doing each day could be just as damaging. Being expected to post daily, at any given time, has to be more intrusive than having control over what and when you decide to engage with social media. Could BeReal be a potentially performative social platform that increases daily anxiety amongst teens and adults alike to be ‘doing something interesting’ or being in the headspace to share their life.

Because BeReal sends users a notification and a two-minute timer to capture their post of the day, users have to be actively looking at their phones in that moment. Might this not lead to BeReal FOMO? And more importantly, people are more than likely doing the interesting, exciting, sharable things when they’re not looking at their phones!

But maybe that’s the beauty of BeReal; it’s ability to connect people when they are scrolling endlessly through their phones, prompting them to engage with the people that matter to them, and share a snippet of their day, their human experience.

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