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The social network where you really are yourself

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A new social network that offers its users to “show how they really are” is enjoying some success among American university students, albeit still confined to a niche. It's called BeReal, it was introduced at the end of 2020 by the French Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau but it gained real popularity only recently: between January and February it was downloaded by 4 million people. His goal is to create a digital space where people feel free to really show what their days are like, deviating from the dynamics of social networks like Instagram, famous for its far-fetched filters and its seemingly life-like influencers.

How BeReal works is simple: once a day, at a different time each day, users receive a single notification asking them to take two photos simultaneously, one through the 'front lens of the mobile, the one for selfies, the other through the rear lens. You have two minutes to take these photos and decide whether or not to post them on your profile: people who want to take their photos of the day at a different time can do so, but the app reports very clearly who posted the photos outside. of the two minutes of time established.

On BeReal there is no possibility to upload photos taken previously from your own gallery, nor can you add filters: the slogan of the platform is “BeReal is life, real life , and this life is without filters “, that is” BeReal is life, real life, and real life does not have filters “.

Unlike all the most popular social networks, then , BeReal does not allow the so-called “lurking”, that is the practice of observing what others post online without publishing something in turn: to see the contributions of others, users must first have uploaded their own snapshots of the day. You can't even put a “like”: to interact with friends' posts, you can only leave a comment or a “RealMoji”, that is a selfie to be coupled with a limited list of emojis.

Founder Alexis Barreyat says he decided to create his own social network after working closely with influencers and getting to know their sleek and highly polished aesthetic while working as a video producer for GoPro, the brand of wearable cameras. much loved by youtubers and travel bloggers.

Indeed, the photos found in the Discovery section of BeReal – the one on which other users' images are shown – are very far from what we are get used to seeing on social networks. There are so many posts that show only the tips of someone walking shoes, the view from the window of a bus during boring commuter journeys, the simple dinners of university students, the socks of those who were just watching television, lying on the sofa. Where you might expect a bright and well-kept bedroom, perhaps full of refined plants and posters as is fashionable on Instagram, there is instead the selfie of a girl without make-up who studies on the unmade bed, among scattered sheets and highlighters.

After a first spike in popularity in France in the summer of 2021, the app is now finding a fortune on US college campuses. In the student newspaper of Duke University, one of the most prestigious in the country, the young journalist Jules Kourelakos explained the charm of the new social network as follows: “It is a relief to see the girls and boys of the brotherhoods who spend their Tuesday evenings studying or group of friends whose Instagram stories consist solely of expensive downtown dinners eating mediocre supermarket pizza like the rest of us. And, for better or for worse, you feel less guilty for sleeping until 1pm when you open BeReal and are greeted by five identical photos of sleepy faces peeking out of the covers. “

Unlike France, where BeReal grew mainly through word of mouth, in the United States the startup is actively trying to attract new young users by organizing parties in university cities and hiring “ambassadors” who study on major campuses. On the other hand, many social networks – from Facebook to Snapchat – had been adopted en masse by college students before becoming the big platforms they are today.

It's too early to say whether BeReal will be able to catch foot outside the university bubbles: from Peach to Clubhouse, there are many apps that in recent years have been talked about as potential answers to the problems of social networks, before they disappeared into irrelevance. And it's not even clear how the company intends to make money when it runs out of funding, given that the app is currently free, contains no ads, and isn't designed to keep users in it for very long, unlike Instagram. , Facebook, Twitter or TikTok.

What is clear, however, is that experiments like BeReal reflect the exhaustion that so many people feel in the face of the transformation of platforms like Instagram, which was born in 2010 as a simple space where you can share your photos with friends and which in the space of twelve years has become a kind of huge digital shopping center, where it is often difficult to distinguish between the many sponsored and promotional content and the authentic posts.

Already in 2015 some influencers had begun to talk openly about what their life really was, beyond their extremely well-kept public profiles, and today there is an entire line of Instagram profiles that de announce the deleterious effects of the platform on the perception of self that its users have.

To escape the perceived need to constantly project an idealized image of oneself and one's lifestyle, then, for years many users (including several celebrities) create secondary profiles that are closed to all but close friends, the so-called finsta. As Valeriya Safronova wrote in the New York Times as early as 2015, in the finstas “the principles that guide Instagram are cheerfully ignored: if posting more than once a day on a main account is considered a misstep, it is perfectly acceptable, on a finstagram account. , unleashing a flow of trivial images, screenshots of conversations and ugly selfies. ”

Since then, what is considered acceptable and appropriate on a public profile even of a certain importance has partly changed. For a couple of years, Instagram has progressively been filled with so-called “photodumps”, i.e. sequences (“carousels”, as they are called in jargon) of unrelated photos in which images taken in different moments and places find space – often not beautiful enough to deserve a post just for them – but also blurry memes or selfies. According to Maya Ernest, who described the phenomenon for Input Magazine, the “photodumps” are reminiscent of the Instagram of the origins, but “without the ugly filters”: a space to be used as a personal album rather than as a showcase.

Unlike BeReal, however, the “photodumps” maintain a certain care and artificiality: “they could be the closest thing to authenticity we can have», Writes Ernest, but« despite the nonchalance of the photos inserted inside them, each one has been specifically chosen to be published on Instagram ».