A social network without filters or likes, why is BeReal so popular?

A social network without filters or likes, why is BeReal so popular?

David Rosing

NOS . News

The social network BeReal is making progress in the Netherlands. The app has been downloaded nearly a million times in the past four months and is especially popular among young people. According to experts, the app, which the app makers call an “anti-Instagram”, responds intelligently to “the societal need for smaller, more realistic social media.”

In BeReal you won’t find edited photos with perfect composition and beautiful filter. Users are notified once per day that “it’s time to get real” (“It’s time to be real). You then have 2 minutes to take a photo and post it to your profile. The time varies every day, but it varies from person to person. Your snaps cannot be edited before they are shared with friends.

The makers of the app hope that Time Out will give you a real glimpse into your life and show you things that you wouldn’t be so quick to post on other social media. You can also create a post after the first two minutes, but then it will clearly show that you are late.

This approach can produce special images. User Nick (26) says that due to the unexpected time, he sometimes did BeReal in the toilet or in bed, watching a series. But this, he says, is very nice about the app: “On other social media these days it’s a lot more about the perfect image, and that’s where you see real life.”


Figures from market researcher Sensor Tower show how the app has grown tremendously in just a few months. Striking, because the app is nothing new. The first version of BeReal, developed by two French programmers, dates back to January 2020.


Popular culture expert Rabie Al-Satabi believes that the app is very successful now because it fits with the spirit of the times. “After the pandemic, we can finally get out again, we can travel. We have something to show again in our daily lives.”

And according to Sitabi, the fact that everyday life doesn’t have to seem perfect has been popular for some time. “The new generation of social media is all about showing yourself as unfiltered as possible. That was already the case with Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and going live on TikTok, for example.”

Sitabi notes that among young people, the goal is no longer to get thousands of followers, but to be yourself online. “The new generation is very interested in identity and is looking for places where they can share it semi-privately.”

“It’s not about likes”

According to new media expert Reinder Rustema, BeReal’s strength also lies in the platform’s limitations: you can only upload one photo per day. “Rarity works, which provokes desire. Twitter has also become successful because it limits messages to a certain number of characters.” Using BeReal also takes a very short time due to the limited number of images. You can’t keep scrolling infinitely like in other apps.

User Sam (17) recognizes this: “On Instagram, you have to scroll a long time to see your friends. On BeReal, I only see the daily photos of the little circle I’ve added.”

Rostima described the new platform as a response to the shortcomings of other social media: “Facebook is too generic, Instagram cares too much about attention and Twitter is too tough.” In fact, according to him, BeReal goes back to the early days of social media. “You only post with a small circle of people and it’s not about likes, it’s about curiosity about your friends’ lives.”

There is no new Instagram

It’s not often that a relatively new social network becomes so popular. Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok dominate the market. The success of BeReal is somewhat reminiscent of Clubhouse, the app that would have a huge following the noise But there is nowhere to be seen. Thus, the question is whether the app can occupy a permanent place in the media landscape or whether it will disappear again soon.

Pop culture expert Sitabi doesn’t expect the app to have a long expiration date. According to her, BeReal responds to the needs of the moment, but it will never be the new Instagram. “If your aunt had BeReal in a year, she wouldn’t want it anymore.”

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