a picture of a hand holding a phone with the back camera taking a picture

BeReal is a social media app that's recently gained popularity among Gen Z. (Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)


‘Not another social platform’: What is BeReal?

BeReal is a new app where people take unfiltered photos of their daily life.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/23leekj6309d1afad/" target="_self">Katharine Lee</a>

Katharine Lee

October 5, 2022
A new photo-sharing social app called BeReal has become Gen Z’s latest obsession.

The platform advocates for a grittier social media experience, shelving pressures to curate flawless Instagram grids and sun-kissed selfies. BeReal is willing to bet that your authentic self — with all its sleep-deprived, blemished, eye bagged glory — is a lot more interesting that you think.

Senior Jillian Canaveral downloaded BeReal around the end of June. Her first post? A photo of herself reading a book, Canaveral reveals with a hint of embarrassment.

“I was pretty late to the trend, but hey, better late than never,” Canaveral said. “I’ve learned to take more fun BeReals since then, but I think the app has really served the purpose of its name: to be real.”

The French app combines features of Instagram stories and Snapchat. Users can only post a picture once a day, which disappears after 24 hours. At varying times during the day, the app sends out a daily notification to all of its users: time to be real.

A two-minute timer starts. The idea is to post a picture of what you’re doing at that time, regardless of how dull or exciting it may be. You could be walking to school, eating dinner, or attending a football game, for example. The app takes a photo using both your front and back camera — surprise! — so people can see what you look like and where you are.

“BeReal only works when you post it at the time the notification is being sent out,” Canaveral said. “If you post two hours later, if you’re trying to create false memories, that destroys the purpose of the app.”

Users appreciate the spontaneity of these posts. There are no filters or editing software present on the app to touch up your appearance. Retakes are allowed and you can still post after the window has passed, but friends will be notified of this. As BeReal states on its website and mission statement, these parameters exist to help you “discover who your friends really are in their daily life.”

“You can see that other people don’t create the fake environment you see on other platforms, and that’s very encouraging,” Canaveral said.

Though the app was invented in 2020, it has found its moment in 2022. Downloads for BeReal have skyrocketed 6.8 million people according to Wall Street Journal. For Canaveral, BeReal has challenged her to overcome the urge of taking the most perfect, flattering shot.

“Because I downloaded BeReal over summer, I sort of had the pressure to portray myself as having fun and enjoying break,” Canaveral said. “But now at school I feel more comfortable posting because other people are having the same experience as me.”

BeReal photo albums are often cluttered with poorly composed pictures — blurry computer screens with a last-minute essay plastered there, neighborhood suburbia, video games. Given the limitations on what one can post, and the often dull and non-photogenic pictures that result, one would think BeReal to be a massive flop among its Gen Z audience. Yet its had the opposite effect — its occasional mundanity reminds users to stop, appreciate the little things, and recognize the moment in a genuine way.

“I don’t think we can ever be truly authentic on social media, but BeReal is the closest we can get,” Canaveral said.