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Austonia tests out BeReal, the latest social media Gen Z is hooked on

(BeReal/Twitter)

Trampling over TikTok and Instagram to the top of the free downloads on the iOS app store is a photo-sharing social media known as BeReal.


BeReal tells users it’s “not another social network.” Breaking away from the mix of tech giants in Austin like Meta and TikTok, BeReal isn’t for perfectly curated photo dumps, beautifying filters or live streams, though it still uses the attraction of content posted in real-time.

BeReal slightly removes your agency in capturing picture-perfect moments. At a random time each day, users get a notification that it’s “⚠️ Time to BeReal. ⚠️” and are given two minutes to take a photo that captures your setting from both the front and rear cameras.

You can post late, but the app documents how late your post is once you get around to uploading. Plus you’re blocked from viewing your friends’ photos until you follow through on your posting duties.

With all the hype over BeReal, even from those like Facebook investor Yuri Milner’s DST Global set to help the startup reach a valuation of more than $600 million, we decided to try it out for ourselves.

Your first BeReal notification comes immediately upon downloading the app. Fresh out of a work meeting, I was sitting at my desk at home and decided to stay put and capture a photo of my cat. A reminder: the app will capture a photo from your front camera, something I was unaware of when I snapped this half image of my face.

Now, when it comes to engagement, the app allows you to comment on your friend's posts with “RealMojis,” where you can make your face emoji-like. It’s particularly useful in instances like one TikTok user who showed the RealMojis their friends sent after the BeReal notification came while they were with their ex.

A couple of days pass with more of the same. I’m on time to post, but I’m at home when the notification strikes. No notification comes while I’m out doing activities I’d typically share on social media like going to Blues on the Green, catching a movie at the Blue Starlite Drive in, grabbing a coffee at Barley Bean or even while I’m talking a tow trucker out of taking my car away for a parking violation.

So on Friday, I rebelled and decided to post late. I was at the Austin History Center doing research for a story and caught the outside of the charming downtown building. I did Saturday's post a whole day later and put a photo at the car wash on Sunday, again forgetting that the app is also taking a photo from the front camera.

Founded by a French developer in January 2020, the app has taken a couple of years to catch on. But now that interest has skyrocketed—some research firms are estimating that the app is in the 20-30 million downloads range—users are learning that BeReal is for the mundane. And the discovery tab where you can see people’s posts across the world is full of it. I’ve seen a person riding on the back of someone’s motorcycle in Spain, someone in Germany watching Breaking Bad, a view of Grand Central Station and more.

So while it’s frustrating to not get a notification to post when you’d like it to happen, it’s also part of the appeal. The thrill of thinking that maybe you’ll get a BeReal notification at a time that you want to post is part of what keeps users coming back, and may be the key for the social media to grow as a competitor to the well-established giants. But with others saying it's not as authentic as it brands itself as, it's possible the initial frenzy could pass.

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