I tried BeReal, the Instagram alternative, and I don't see the hype

BeReal is the new social media app that’s taken the the world by storm, currently occupying the number one spot on Apple’s ‘Top Free Apps’ in the UK.

The app even made an appearance on Elon Musk’s tweet complaining that Donald Trump’s Truth Social was overtaking Twitter and TikTok on the App Store.

The app claims to be ‘Not another social network’ by discouraging filters and capturing life as it is.

Everyday at a different time, BeReal simultaneously notifies its users to capture and share a photo — the catch is you only get two minutes to do it. So, obviously there’s no time to find the best angles, lighting or filter.

I decided to give the supposedly anti-Instagram app a go to see what the fuss was about.

As a self-confessed Insta addict, who spends three hours a day on average on the photo sharing app, I was open to checking out an app that promised no filters or curation.

My first disappointment was that nobody I knew was on it. So if you’re over 25 you might be hard pressed to find these ‘friends’ the app wants you to share your true self with.

‘2 min left to capture a BeReal and see what your friends are upto!’ prompted a notification on my home screen.

It was 10.23 am on a Thursday so I can safely assume most of my friends are at work, either from their homes or offices. What else would any twenty-something be doing on a weekday morning?

Nevertheless, I complied and uploaded a picture of my face and whatever was in front of me, which more often than not was, my laptop.

BeReal’s simultaneous front and back camera feature would make sure you captured yourself your immediate surroundings so people could see your authentic self.

If I learnt anything from spending two weeks on BeReal, it’s that I’m never away from my phone. Whenever the notification popped up, at whatever time of the day, I would faithfully answer the call as my phone was never out of my reach.

This did make me think about how much I depended on this device but did BeReal truly capture who who I was? I don’t think so.

When I looked through the ‘Memories’ section of the app, similar to Instagram’s story archive, what I saw was in contrast to the image of myself that I had in my head.

While I saw myself as someone who loved her job, hit the gym often enough and had a happening-enough social life, BeReal told me I was a lonely workaholic with an unhealthy relationship with my laptop.

Most of the times I got the notification, I was at work; typing away on my laptop, on my bed, on the couch, at the office.

Save for the two days I went on holiday over Easter break, BeReal really pointed out the mundaneness of everyday life.

This is its biggest flaw in the concept of capturing your true self. When you don’t time it right, capturing random moments of your life can be just that — unremarkable.

I use my Instagram as a photo album of sorts, going back and looking at happy memories, surrounded by friends, by myself, on a beach, back home with my family.

Looking through my BeReal memories did not give me that joy. Just the feeling of an app that’s trying really hard to make a point. Yes, this was a notification to capture my life as it was but did I really want that?

I want to be able to revel in the good times and look back at my story archive with things that made me laugh and moments I wish I could relive.

Looking through my Instagram and Snapchat stories over the same two weeks gave me a completely different version of my life.

Unlike my BeReal memories with the gremlin version of myself hunched over a laptop, I saw proof of blurry nights out, aesthetic meals, beautiful sunsets, dogs I saw on the tube and even some vain but post-worthy selfies.

Unless they’re making a living from social media, people more or less do end up showcasing their life as it is on the existing apps, at least on their stories.

BeReal also has the option to share your unfiltered moment on other social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter so the idea does not seem to be to switch off from those other words but add to it.

However, its best feature is the Discovery section where you can peek into people’s lives as they go about their day.

A surprising number of them are people like me with their laptops and messy rooms but there’s also people mid-haircut at the salon, in the middle of class and out with their friends.

There’s no aesthetics here, just a collection of badly-timed selfies and terrible angles. Still, BeReal might be on to something, especially with the Gen Z crowd.

But for people who grew up at the peak of social photo-sharing, this is likely something they can do without. Then again, maybe I don’t want to be rushed into taking a picture of myself in just two minutes.

Also, BeReal’s UI is still a bit wonky and doesn’t have the same ease of use that other social media apps do. Its unique features like reacting to a photo with a ‘Realmoji’ don’t feel as organic as just double-clicking to ‘like’.

In a post-Instagram world, this could be a star social media app but it remains to be seen if it can keep its growing user base and get them interested enough to stick around.

There’s a reason we like to curate our lives for friends and family to see on Instagram. We know when we’re in the middle of a good memory and try to capture it. For more spontaneous photo sharing, Snapchat is a close second option.

BeReal is less appealing to me because it doesn’t give me that dopamine rush that all the apps making money from my attention probably do. Maybe I’m just a well-trained monkey for that instant gratification loop that Big Tech has trained me for.

But I’ve taken a break from Instagram more than once and it’s something I know I can choose to do. It’s also nice to have the option to share what I want to and when.

At the end of the day it’s that choice that makes living our online lives an enjoyable experience.

Have you tried BeReal? Let us know what your experiences have been like in the comments below.

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