Why teens choose the BeReal app over Instagram: NPR

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BeReal asks people to post one candid, unretouched photo a day. It cannot be “liked” or shared. There are no algorithms. No ads. Your friends’ photo feed is intentionally boring and unremarkable.



AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Teenagers trying to escape the constant barrage of ads and celebrities on Instagram have found a new place to go. It’s called BeReal. And as the name suggests, it tries to create a more authentic social media experience – no filters, no editing. NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn examines how BeReal is trying to reinvent the way young people connect with their friends.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Marissa Omaque is an 18-year-old from the San Francisco Bay Area who is fed up with Instagram.

MARISSA OMAQUE: For a very long time, I always compared myself to these influencers. Like, oh, how come, like, I can’t be like this, you know? Like, I want to be like that, but I’ll never be on the same level as them. It really hits, like, a lot of people’s brains.

ALLYN: So when Omaque heard about the French app BeReal, she was eager to try it out. Here’s how it works. You only post once a day when prompted. You only have two minutes to take a picture. The app takes a selfie and everything in front of you at the same time, all without filters and without editing.

OMAQUE: When I’m on BeReal, I don’t really expect, oh, I’m in Hawaii; I’m with my sexy boyfriend. Like, I’m just waiting for someone on their couch.

ALLYN: And that’s often what it’s about, the mundane movements of life – people walking their dogs, people staring at a computer, people having lunch. Omaque’s best friend, Khia Reddy, chimes in to say that so many apps like Instagram and Snapchat look like a performance, people brag about vacations or cool nights out or who they hang out with. On BeReal, there is less fear of missing out – a FOMO-free zone.

KHIA REDDY: We don’t play anymore. Most of the time, most of my BeReals are either me sitting at my desk doing my homework or me at work.

ALLYN: It’s refreshing for researchers studying the impact of social media on child development. UCLA’s Yalda Uhls says apps like Instagram and TikTok, where influencer culture thrives, can harm teen mental health, with teens constantly comparing themselves to the bodies and styles of professional models.

YALDA UHLS: Social comparison is normal. Like, it’s something that every teenager and every person needs to learn how to act in the world. But on social media, you know, it’s social comparison on steroids.

ALLYN: Uhls says there are obviously a lot of ways not to be real on BeReal. It’s social media, after all. But she says an app that gets people to share photos of what they really do and what they really look like is a welcome development.

UHLS: I applaud anything that helps young people understand that a filtered approach to life is not an authentic, wholesome approach to life.

ALLYN: Right now if you go to someone’s BeReal profile, you can’t see who they follow or how many followers they have. Profiles are totally blank – social media with no popularity contests. The app also has no ads. Back in the Bay Area, Reddy wonders how BeReal can stay that way forever, as the app will eventually have to find a way to make money. How will the app do this while still being an intimate and relaxing place to share photos with friends?

REDDY: If there’s, like, a feature where, like, celebrities start accessing the app and they’re like, oh, you can pay to see celebrities’ BeReal, I’m going to kind of back off , I think, a little.

ALLYN: BeReal tries to be a social media app to give everyone a break from social media apps. Silicon Valley may see it as the next big thing. Already, the same venture capitalists who backed Instagram and Twitter are funding BeReal. Of course, there’s another way to take a break from social media: try logging out. Bobby Allyn, NPR News.

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