Social media may have started as a way for people to connect with friends and family and share thoughts and experiences. But over a couple of decades, seemingly endless snark — photos that present unrealistic versions of people’s lives — and revenue-motivated “influencers” who carefully script their posts have overrun many sites, say a number of critics.
A 2-year-old platform that asks you to share one photo at a random time each day is skyrocketing to popularity based on the promise of a return to more simple times. And it offers benefits to older users, especially those looking to connect with grown kids who might not want Mom and Dad looking at their Instagram.
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The free app for iPhones and Androids, called BeReal, debuted in December 2019 and has been downloaded more than 53 million times worldwide as of October. It hit the top spot on Apple’s App store in July. A majority of the new downloads come from the United States, according to San Francisco-based Sensor Tower, which analyzes app data.
“BeReal is an app that really is meant to be intergenerational and less intrusive, to a degree,” says Janet Taylor, 60, a psychiatrist in Sarasota, Florida. “And it’s really cool because it reminds you to be in the moment. It clearly focuses on the beauty of living life.”
As of April, the most recent data available, more than 98 percent of users are 16 to 44, Generation Zers and millennials, according to San Francisco-based data.ai, formerly App Annie, which also analyzes app data. The remainder are older Gen Xers and baby boomers. Nearly 3 in 5 are women.
How BeReal works
At a random time once each day, BeReal sends out a notification to all users to take a picture of what they are doing at that moment. The smartphone app gives them two minutes to snap a picture, using both the front and back camera on the phone, so the moment captures their face as well as what they are looking at.
Unless the user chooses otherwise, the app shares those photos only with their connections on BeReal, a closed group. It’s common to see your friends doing such things as cooking, working at their desks, shopping or grabbing takeout — real things they do throughout the day.