Gen Z Is Drawn to BeReal, a Photo App with No Ads or Filters

French mobile app BeReal, available for iOS and Android smartphones, has become a hit with Gen Z users. Pitched as an authentic alternative to image-driven social apps like Instagram and TikTok, college students and other young adults have driven what Sensor Tower says are nearly 6.8 million downloads in the past two years. BeReal’s primary feature is it pings all users at the same time, once every 24 hours, prompting them to snap and post a photo. Timing of the prompt changes every day in an effort to catch users at random unprepared moments.

“You only have two minutes to respond, and a two-image collage is captured from your front and back cameras,” explains Wired, noting “BeReal capitalizes on a continuing quest for authenticity on social media.”

There is no in-app advertising, follower counts are not displayed and photo filters not allowed. While more entrenched apps like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat each boast more than a billion users worldwide, BeReal’s “limited approach to posting and perusing” lets users “post quickly, scroll and go live your life,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The concept has struck a chord among users in the 9- to 25-year-old range, designated Gen Z. WSJ says the bland posts of people cooking dinner or watching TV let 22-year-old Nathan Carey of Ireland “see his friends’ lives as they are, rather than through highly curated images,” quoting Carey saying, “You can be more vulnerable.”

“BeReal sponsored a party with free admission for Harvard students who interacted with the app,” writes Wired, explaining that Mariah Norman, a student at the university, “declared photo dumps on Instagram a passé endeavor so mainstream that the president does it.”

“She was enamored by the unfiltered feed on BeReal,” and “because there’s no time to find that perfect pose or background, the content you engage with on the app is charmingly mundane yet extraordinarily authentic and creative.”

Launched in 2020 by Paris-based Alexis Barreyat, BeReal “has received millions of dollars from investors like Andreessen Horowitz,” per Wired. The company wants “users to portray their lives rather than share images to amass influence,” a BeReal spokesperson told WSJ. “We want to make people feel good about themselves and their lives.”

BeReal is drawing comparisons to once-popular apps like Yo and Frontback. The latter — merging front and rear camera photos into a single image — “surged in popularity after its 2013 launch but shut down two years later when users moved on to the next big thing,” WSJ reports, noting that although “the number of downloads is a good measure of an app’s success, that data doesn’t predict whether the app has staying power.”

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