This is going to be a bit of a departure from the norm. Usually, I write reviews of games. But this week has been one of those weeks. One of the most weeks of all time. That sort of thing. So instead, let’s review a social media app.
The premise of BeReal is simple: most social media is at least sorta fake, because it’s easy to look for perfect moments and perfect images. BeReal tries to solve this by working differently. Instead of uploading your images and posts whenever you want, once per day the app sends out a notification. That notification is the start of a two-minute window to take and upload an image. You can’t see anyone else’s images until you upload one first, and you can comment on images.
And that’s it. That’s everything BeReal offers at the moment. Let’s talk about it.
As someone who sucks at social media, I like BeReal’s stated goal. The idea of making social media more accurate to depicting folks’ lives is something I think is good. That said, I don’t know that I trust them in that stated goal. After using the app for several weeks, I have quite a few problems with it, and wouldn’t recommend BeReal. I’ll start with the easy problems, that is to say, things that can be fixed, and then go into the harder ones.
First off, from a general usage standpoint, the app currently kind of sucks. It’s constantly buggy. Often it’s not possible to upload a photo in the two minute window. It constantly freezes, and is just somewhat garbage. Adding text to photos isn’t a smooth experience either, and neither is commenting. But these are all technical problems, and solvable with time and money. Which brings me to my second observation.
Money. At some point this app is going to need to actually make money. And it’s going to likely do so the same way every single social media app makes money: advertising and data harvesting. Enough people already have my data, I’m not thrilled to give it to anyone else.
Onto the next problem: actual usage as a social network. I have two issues here. First off, all BeReal lets you do is comment on photos and post a single photo a day. There is no messaging, no ability to ping folks to hang out, none of that sort of stuff. BeReal might be great if you’re a college student, constantly running about to class, or sports, or whatever.
But I’m a working adult. If I take a photo a random point during the day, there’s a 90% chance that it’s just going to be me sitting in a chair. The camera will be pointed away from my monitor because if I take a photo of what’s on that, I could get fired. So instead, you get a picture of my fridge and dishwasher. The remaining 10% of the day will be me sitting in another chair, and playing video games. If I’m out doing something, I’m not going to bother taking my phone out to take a photo.
And that’s the main problem I have with the app. I said earlier that I agree with BeReal’s stated goal: to make social media less fake. That doesn’t mean I think their stated goal is their actual goal. It seems to me that getting users to build a pattern of behavior around taking a photo at a specific point in time is primarily a strategy for making a popular social media platform, and only secondarily about making social media “less fake.”
As a note, you can take photos later and post, but they show as late posts. Personally, I don’t care, but my younger sister said people see it as important that you post in time.
There are probably more problems with BeReal. When I asked my sister who recently graduated about it, she said she found it annoying how first years using the app would all rush for their phones when the notification dinged, even if it was the middle of ultimate frisbee practice. That’s not an experience I have any exposure to, but I think I’d find it frustrating if everyone needed a selfie break in the middle of a zoom call.
Or maybe I wouldn’t give a shit. I’m just so dead inside at the moment.
Anyway. While BeReal makes a stated attempt at resolving one of the major problems with social media, it doesn’t really address the bigger issue: giving buckets of information about every aspect of your life to a gigantic mega-corporation in exchange for the ability to sometimes see a cute photo of a dog is a pretty shitty trade.
Thanks for reading, and more game stuff to come shortly. Like I mentioned, it’s been a week.