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BeReal Bought: The Rise and Fall of the Anti-Instagram App (And What it Means for Social Media)

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Remember BeReal? The social media app that promised authenticity with its “no filters, no highlights” approach? It took the world by storm in 2022, particularly among college students yearning for a more genuine online experience. But a recent acquisition by French mobile game publisher Voodoo paints a different picture. Let’s dive into the story of BeReal’s meteoric rise and fall, and what it reveals about the future of social media engagement.

BeReal App
BeReal App

From Pandemic Darling to Acquisition Target:

BeReal’s premise was simple: capture a spontaneous selfie and your surroundings at a random daily prompt. This “unfiltered reality” resonated with users fatigued by the curated perfection of traditional platforms like Instagram. Fueled by this demand for authenticity, BeReal skyrocketed to the top of the App Store charts in summer 2022.

However, the app’s charm seemed fleeting. Despite a reported 15 million monthly users in October 2022, BeReal’s engagement struggled to maintain momentum. By March 2023, monthly users had reportedly dropped to 6 million (Voodoo claims a current user base of 40 million+). Facing declining user numbers and financial hurdles, BeReal reportedly sought a buyer, ultimately landing with Voodoo for a cool $540 million.

The Challenge of Authenticity vs. Engagement:

BeReal on App Store
BeReal on App Store

BeReal’s downfall raises questions about the balance between authenticity and user engagement in today’s social media landscape. While the “no likes,” disappearing photos, and anti-algorithm approach initially appealed to users, it seems the allure of unfiltered reality wasn’t enough to sustain long-term engagement. Unlike apps like TikTok and Instagram, with their addictive algorithms and endless content streams, BeReal’s friend-centric, unfiltered format lacked that “stickiness.”

A Glimpse into the Future of Social Media?

Despite BeReal’s decline, its initial success highlights a growing sentiment among younger generations – a potential rejection of the curated and idealized online personas often showcased on established social media platforms. Studies have linked excessive social media usage to anxiety and depression in teenagers, further fueling the desire for a more “real” online experience.

How did BeReal differentiate itself from Instagram?

BeReal set itself apart from Instagram by promoting authenticity and spontaneity. It encouraged users to share one unfiltered photo of themselves and their surroundings at a random time each day, without the option for edits or filters. This approach aimed to counter the highly curated and often unrealistic portrayal of life on platforms like Instagram.

What other features did BeReal have?

BeReal
BeReal

BeReal’s key features included:

  • Daily Photo Sharing: Users received a notification at a random time each day to capture and share a photo within 2 minutes.
  • Realness: No filters or editing tools were available, promoting genuine snapshots of daily life.
  • Simultaneous Front and Back Camera Use: Photos captured both the user’s face and their environment at the same time.
  • Interaction: Friends could react to each other’s photos with RealMojis, which were pictures of their own reactions.

These features aimed to foster a sense of community and authenticity among users.

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What Does This Mean for Social Media Platforms?

BeReal’s story serves as a cautionary tale for social media platforms:

  • Authenticity Matters: Users crave genuine social interaction, but it needs to be balanced with engaging features.
  • The Algorithm Advantage: While algorithms can be frustrating, they undeniably contribute to user engagement. Can platforms find a balance between curated content and showcasing genuine connections?
  • The Future is Uncertain: Will younger generations truly embrace a social media experience devoid of the algorithmic “dopamine hits” offered by current giants? Only time will tell.

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