There is a shift happening in the social media landscape – carefully-curated Instagram posts are losing their appeal in favor of something more candid, relatable, and even mundane.

People are using social media apps in an increasingly transparent and time-limited approach. Think the unpolished photo dumps of “casual Instagram,” Snapchat’s “burn after reading” format, Wordle’s scarcity tactic and sense of community around its daily word, or invite-only photo sharing among friends on Locket Widget and Dispo.

Influencers, celebrities, and businesses are also posting content that aims to appear more authentic, like Doja Cat’s “unhinged” TikTok content and Kylie Jenner’s seemingly effortless Instagram photo dumps.

Enter BeReal

Founded in 2020, BeReal is an app that simultaneously alerts all users to take a two-way photo of themselves within two minutes at a random time each day. If they don’t post a photo, either at that time or later, they can’t see their friends’ posts or the Discovery page. Photos expire on people’s feeds after the next day’s BeReal alert.

The app has exploded in popularity this year, especially on college campuses, becoming the top social networking app in the App Store. BeReal has branded itself as the antithesis of highly filtered social platforms like Instagram by giving users an unscripted glimpse into their friends’ daily lives.

Whether walking to class, eating with friends, or laying in bed, BeReal reveals ordinary moments, chipping away at the inclination to maintain an unblemished online image.

More intimate networks

A motto of the app is, “BeReal won’t make you famous – if you want to become an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.” A dig at the performative network-building nature of many social media apps, BeReal is for sharing among close circles instead of wide audiences.

BeReal encourages tightknit socializing through its “My Friends” feature, where you can only connect with people who add you back. Having only two ways to interact with friends’ posts – through comments and RealMojis (selfie reactions that mimic emojis) – furthers the intimacy of the app. The collective experience of sharing these posts creates a sense of community among users.

A shift toward transparency

Unlike other social platforms, BeReal lays bare what goes on behind the scenes. Posting after the 2-minute window and retaking photos are badges of shame. If users take their picture late, they have the option to post afterwards – but their post is timestamped and broadcast to friends. Retakes are similarly exposed. People can take photos as many times as they want within the two-minute constriction, but the number of attempts is visible to all.

It remains to be seen whether people can truly escape the discomfort of sharing an unvarnished side of themselves. Many users grumble about “BeReal time” happening during a dull part of their day. Taking a BeReal picture without warning can be uncomfortable and people often just don’t do it. The desire to look perfect and the awareness that posts are for public consumption can be hard to shake.

Is this really the end of performative posting?

BeReal could be signaling the end of performative posting – or just giving it a raw new look. As people become more comfortable using the app, they may be primed to post outside the two-minute window with moments of “being real” that cast them in a more attractive light. In time, BeReal runs the risk of becoming another curated highlight reel.

Time will tell whether BeReal itself is a fad. For now, the app is evolving as it grows, but questions remain about how monetization could shift the user experience and how it might respond as competitors like Instagram get in on the trend.

Regardless, BeReal is transforming the way people approach their online presence and inspiring people to strive less for the illusion of perfection. BeReal’s success suggests that this is the beginning of a much larger online movement.