No likes, filters or influencers: Millions of people are using BeReal and TikTok is trying to copy it. Here's how it works – ABC News

No likes, filters or influencers: Millions of people are using BeReal and TikTok is trying to copy it. Here's how it works
Your friends "for real".
Not your friends after two layers of filters or after two hours of picking which photo to post.
That is the promise of BeReal.
With no likes and no follower count, the French social media app has gained recognition for not relying on influencer culture, nor intending to make anyone famous or "viral".
Released in 2020, BeReal has only recently begun soaring to the top of download charts around the world. 
BeReal is the brainchild of French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat, a former media producer at GoPro, and Kevin Perreau.
In August, media and information brand for the app industry, Business of Apps reported BeReal had 21.6 million monthly active users.
It's a fraction of Instagram's roughly 1 billion monthly active users. 
Once a day, at a random time, the app notifies users that it's "time to BeReal". 
When the user opens the app, a two-minute timer appears at the top, giving them a limited amount of time to take a photo of whatever they're doing at that moment.
You could be sitting at your desk at work, walking to class, or at dinner with friends — who knows when you'll get it.
The shot captures a photo from both the front and back camera, so that you see what is being framed, as well as what's behind the camera. 
The photos are only shared with people you choose to follow, who also follow you. 
There are also a few hurdles.
You're advised not to retake a photo. If you do, it shares with your friends how many retakes you took. 
And if you take a photo late, the app labels your photo with "X hours late". 
Out of all her cousins, Yasmin Sequeira, 21, was the only one who didn't have BeReal.
"I downloaded BeReal to take part in a trend and be a part of something with my friends," she told ABC News.
A few weeks after she downloaded it, the Gen Z-er loved the "minimal effort" that came with the app.
"I think the reason it gained the reception it did was because it was kept in-between your own circle and did not have the same lure of needing to share with the whole world," she said. 
"If BeReal became something where you added anyone and everyone, it would lose its personalised touch and probably fade out."
Psychologist and researcher with The University of Sydney's Cyberpsychology Research Group, Ashleigh King, told ABC News that BeReal "offers a more balanced glimpse into the routine drudgery of everyday life".
"Photos of bedroom ceilings, bland work commutes and daggy Netflix binges, BeReal feels like a relief from the glamorised highlight reels presented on other platforms."
Senior lecturer in marketing at RMIT University, Dr Torgeir Aleti, researches the impacts of social media usage on consumers and relationships. 
"It seems to be feeding off the 'Finsta' trend – Instagram accounts made for closed, smaller communities of users to share content privately instead of publicly," he told ABC News. 
"People find BeReal appealing because it promotes itself as a contrast to other apps often seen as a competition for fame and followers."
On September 16, TikTok US announced the launch of TikTok Now.
"You'll receive a daily prompt to capture a 10-second video or a static photo", the company wrote in a blog post. 
Similar to BeReal's daily prompt, "It's time to BeReal", TikTok's notification is "Time to Now".
Ms King, says this act of cloning should not surprise anyone. 
"TikTok is seeing the growing popularity of BeReal and wanting to preserve their user-base by offering up similar features," Ms King told ABC News.
"This is exactly what we saw with the introduction of 'Stories' for Instagram and Facebook, which quickly followed after Snapchat's rise."
Two minutes to abandon all aesthetics and chances of touching up your appearance is enough to make a lot of young people sweat.
But this is what it means to be authentic, right?
"Authenticity is a challenging construct to capture," Ms King said.
"I believe being 'authentic' online involves sharing more than our life's highlight reel and instead, offering a richer portrait of the experiences and moments that shape us."
Regardless of how much it tries to be, Yasmin doesn't think social media can ever truly be authentic.
"These apps are created by a team of designers who know how to target people and keep them engaged," she said.
"I think the most important thing to recognise is that platforms like Snapchat and Instagram were once authentic and honest before the world started using them and they got monetised.
The same could happen for BeReal."
Dr Aleti says BeReal users can bypass its timer feature by posting outside of the two-minute window.
"Some users might appear to look authentic and spontaneous, but it could be a staged situation," he said.
Due to the one-off nature of BeReal, some find they don't get "addicted" to it.
"You barely spend any time on the app because once you see your friends BeReals and comment or react, there’s literally nothing else to do," Yasmin said.
"But maybe that’s a good thing?"
Ms King says people use social media to learn, create, relax and be entertained.
But what BeReal has to offer is just a fraction of this.
"It offers limited capacity to meet some of these needs, so it may need to expand its offering if it wants to retain interest and relevancy," she said.
"But if they changed it for this reason, would that make it LessReal?"
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