What is BeReal — and why is it exploding in popularity?

BeReal app
(Image credit: Future)

These days social media seems to be full of pictures that have been filtered, photoshopped or altered in some other way. But that’s not the case with BeReal, which is all about sharing an unaltered snapshot of your life in real time.

That means no filters, no editing, just an authentic look at what users are doing at any given moment. Wrinkles, messy hair, smudged makeup (assuming you’re wearing any at all) is all on show for your followers to see. The real you, in other words.

BeReal has also proven to be quite popular, despite the fact you might not have heard about it. The app first launched back in 2020, but according to data from Apptopia, around 65% of its users signed up in 2022. In fact, BeReal’s active monthly users have reportedly risen by more than 315% within the past few months.

bereal app

(Image credit: Phillip Michaels/Tom's Guide)

Another key difference is that BeReal will prompt you to post at a different point throughout the day. Once that happens you have two minutes to post a photo of whatever it is you’re doing, with a dual photo system taking a picture of you and your surroundings at the same time.

Posting notifications are sent out to everyone simultaneously, but BeReal insists that it’s not done randomly. There’s a process behind when notifications go out, but the company says that the process is a secret.

That means you shouldn't end up with the same deliberate glamorization and posturing that you’d find on apps like Instagram. Instead, your feed is full of people going about their normal day-to-day activities. Occasionally you might find someone doing something interesting, but otherwise your feed is a more accurate reflection of what people actually do with their time.

The fact there’s only one post a day means you don’t end up with a feed cluttered with the incessant posting of a handful of people. It also means there’s not enough content to obsess over and few, if any, of the addictive qualities other social networks are known for. On top of this, BeReal only lets you see others’ posts if you share one of your own, so you have to contribute to be a part of everything.

bereal app

As you can see, this post arrived seven hours late (Image credit: Phillip Michaels/Tom's Guide)

If you miss that two-minute window, or you’re doing something that isn’t suitable for public sharing, like using the bathroom, that’s ok. BeReal will still let you post later on, but will call you out for being late. And the later you are, the more embarrassing that might look.

It’s a very nice idea when you think about it. Social media apps are rife with people trying to show off, and portraying themselves in a certain way for one reason or another. But with people posing and cherry picking the best parts of their life to share, it’s already proven to have had a negative impact on mental health, especially among teens and young adults.

bereal app

(Image credit: Phillip Michaels/Tom's Guide)

By offering a more authentic experience, and showing what people are actually doing throughout their day, you get a glimpse of their real lives. After all, there’s no fear that you’re missing out if your friends are sitting at home in sweatpants watching Netflix. With that in mind it’s not hard to see why people would want to be a part of what BeReal has to offer. 

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.