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Innovation

What is BeReal? Everything you need to know about this fast-growing social media app

BeReal is the latest social media hit. Here is what you need to know to get started.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Associate Editor on
BeReal app displayed on cellphone
Image: Getty Images/NurPhoto

What is BeReal?

BeReal is a social media app that might just bring back a little bit of authenticity to our social media posts. There are no filters, followers or preparation allowed on the app. It's all about in the moment photos and being 'real'.

App users receive a daily notification at a random time of the day that says "⚠️Time to BeReal⚠️". As soon as you get the notification, you have two minutes to take a selfie and a back camera photo of what you are doing at that very moment. If you choose to wait to post a picture later in the day when you look better or are doing something fun, all your friends will be able to see that you waited and aren't being real – what's the fun in that? 

How popular is BeReal?

BeReal was initially released in January 2020 but didn't skyrocket until this year. This year, BeReal's popularity has soared, accumulating over 56 million downloads, according to the The Washington Post. Out of its global audience, the app is the most popular in the United States. In July, BeReal hit number one spot on the Apple Appstore in the US. As of November 2022, BeReal is ranked number six in the app store for top free social-networking apps for iPhone, trailing shortly behind industry giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp. 

How do you sign up for BeReal?

To sign up for BeReal, all you need to do is go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, download the app and create an account. It's as simple as that. 

What is the purpose of BeReal?

Because you are required to take photos in the moment, the photos you post and see aren't retouched, edited or fabricated to show an idealized, unrealistic portrayal of a person. If done correctly, the images are an authentic representation of a person's day-to-day life. At best, it's social media but without the airbrushed fictional curated edge.

When do BeReal notifications go off?

BeReal notifications go off once a day at different, random times for all the users. When the notification goes off, you have two minutes to post a picture. If you go past that time your post will be marked as late, showing all your friends that you in fact can't actually BeReal. 

How do you shoot a BeReal?

Posting a BeReal is a very simple process since the photos are meant to be as authentic as possible. All you have to do is open the app, snap a selfie with your front camera and then a photo of your surroundings with the back camera. Within the two-minute period, you can retake the photo as many times as you'd like until you get the picture you desire. 

What do you post on BeReal?

On BeReal, you can only post photos with the two-box, front and back camera format when you are prompted. There is no option to post additional content, such as other photos, because that would take away from the "in the moment" aspect of the app.

Can you gain followers on BeReal?

On BeReal you cannot have followers. Similar to the earliest forms of social networking sites (remember AIM), on the app you have friends instead of followers and only these select groups of people can see your posts. This takes away the pressure of wanting to curate a perfect public image and brings back the fun of sharing content only with your friends.

Are other social media apps copying BeReal?

Similarly to how "story" posts became a feature on virtually every social media app after Snapchat popularized it or how vertical video has taken the world by storm after TikTok blew up, other apps are developing their own spins as well.

In September, TikTok introduced TikTok Now, a way to "foster authentic and spontaneous connections on TikTok". With this update, users are given a daily prompt at a randomized time throughout the day to make a post and share what they are doing within a three-minute period. The only major difference is that you can share a ten-second video or a static photo (with the same BeReal two-camera format) when the notification goes off. 

TikTok BeReal

TikTok Now.

Image: TikTok

In July, right when BeReal reached number one in the US, Instagram launched a dual-camera feature for stories that lets you record or photograph something while also showing your reaction. The format is the same as BeReal's. 

Instagram dual camera

Instagram's dual-camera feature. 

Image: Meta

Can you react to a BeReal post?

Yes, you can react to posts but there is an 'authentic' twist. To react, you have to click an emoji and send a photo of you doing the emoji's expression. The person who's post you are reacting to will be able to see the picture of you reacting to their post. 

What happens to your BeReal after you post it?

All of your BeReals are archived for you to see. One of the best features of BeReal is being able to see a collection of your daily posts. In your memories, you will be able to see a calendar layout with your photos from every day you completed the task. 

BeReal memories

BeReal memories.

Image: Apple App Store/BeReal

Should you download BeReal?

BeReal might be the closest thing to an unvarnished social media experience, although you do get two minutes to get the best snap of course. The app provides you with a way to keep up with what your friends are doing everyday, while also being able to authentically document your day-to-day life. However, if you don't want to commit to posting everyday, this app may not be for you.

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