Opinion: Could this boring app change how we use social media?


Lifestyle

A couple of my BeReal posts from this week.

OPINION:

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’ve got this new social media app to tell you about.

This one is boring as all hell and it won’t make you scroll until your eyes melt off your face. In fact, it only lets you post once a day.

BeReal is one of the most popular new apps among Gen Z but even I, a geriatric Millennial, can see the appeal.

The concept is simple, yet dramatically different from all social media apps out there: every day, once a day, at a random time, the app will send you a notification to let you know you have two minutes to take a photo of yourself and your surroundings, using your phone’s front and back cameras. To make matters worse, you can’t even see what the front camera is taking a picture off, so you don’t even get to manipulate the angle to hide your double-chin. It’s ruthless authenticity, an antidote to today’s uber-curated overly-filtered world.

Touted as the “anti-Instagram” app, BeReal only lets you see what your friends have posted that day once you’ve posted too. You can’t use old photos or edit the photos you take. You can post later, but it’ll tell on you. The idea is that you capture whatever it is you’re looking at, in that moment, with no filters or editing of any kind. Just boring old life as it happens.

There are no algorithms, no ads, no frills. The app wants a photo a day from you, then wants you to go back to your day.

A friend and I have spent the week exchanging boring photos using the app. She’ll show me a glimpse of her morning commute while I send her a photo of what’s on my TV. Over the course of the past few days, despite being separated by more than 18,000km, we’ve managed to achieve something that is particularly tricky these days: we’ve felt connected.

It’s nothing we couldn’t do in our WhatsApp chat but I’ve found that having that daily prompt has given me an extra reminder to share a bit of my boring life with her, and see a bit of hers back. I wish I didn’t need reminders but life is busy and I’d be lying if I said I’ve nailed this staying in touch thing.

In a world of curated Instagram feeds, it’s refreshing to get to peek into someone else’s world in a more authentic, unfiltered way. None of us is trying to showcase a life we’re not living, we’re just sharing the boring bits that make up our days.

One of the most appealing features of BeReal is the fact you can only post once a day. Once you’ve posted, you’re done. You can leave the app, tick it in your mind as something you’ve done, and go back the next day. Much like Wordle, the word game you can also only play once a day, it feels like a less-intrusive way to use the internet, compared to the apps that are specifically designed to keep drawing you back in, with their infinite scrolling and multiple push notifications.

BeReal was created in 2020 by French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau but only recently has been exploding in popularity across the world. According to Apptopia, BeReal’s monthly active users have increased by 315 per cent since the beginning of this year.

There are many question marks around BeReal’s privacy and what it could eventually do with users’ data, particularly as the app continues to grow in popularity and harvesting more and more of people’ data, including what they do (and where they do it) on any given day.

Perhaps the best thing to do with social media is to avoid it all, but we’re human and we will always seek ways to feel connected so, in that sense, removing so many of the problematic parts of social media feels like a good step forward.

I don’t know how long it’ll be before I get sick of posting poorly lit photos of my TV or laptop screens and half-drunk coffee cups but, for now, I’m enjoying the low-stakes of a one-a-day social media app that I can enjoy and abandon as I please.

• If you too can’t wait to see what boring stuff your friends are up to, instead of the fun stuff they put on Instagram, you can download BeReal from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.



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