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BeReal – Your friends for real

3 minutes reading time
11-17 years
Social Media
Tool description
Foto: appvisory.com

“I can’t right now – I have to do a BeReal!” It may have sounded like this or similar in your home for some time. The social media app BeReal wants to be different and inspires with its unusual concept: spontaneous snapshots from everyday life instead of staged pictures and videos. BeReal is one of the most downloaded apps in 2022.

In brief

  • Free social media photo app for Android and iOS
  • Age rating: from 12 years (no verification of the age statement)
  • Advertising-free
  • Requires registration with name, date of birth and phone number
  • Problematic: collection of personal data, lack of data encryption, handling of personal rights

How does BeReal work?

BeReal translates as “Be real!”. Once a day, users receive a request from the app to take a photo of themselves in their current situation. The exact time is unknown, varies from day to day and goes out to all users at the same time.

Within two minutes, a photo must then be taken and published simultaneously with the front and rear cameras. The two photos are displayed as picture-in-picture. Other images from the photo gallery cannot be uploaded. Within the given two minutes, you also have to decide whether the image will be shared only with your friends or publicly in the discovery feed. Once the photo is uploaded, the photos of friendly contacts are also viewable. If an image is uploaded at a later time, it will be marked “Late”. The posted recordings will automatically delete from the feed after 24 hours. On certain days, BeReal calls out special challenges.

There are no filters or image editing in the app and no videos can be recorded. Likes cannot be assigned either, and one’s follower count is not publicly visible. Instead, there’s another unusual feature: reacting to other people’s posts with emojis or so-called RealMojis. This can be used to send personalized grimaces and greetings.

Public photos can be seen at any time. Friends can be found and added via synchronization with your own contacts or by searching for usernames. Profiles from the public feed can also be added.

What excites young people about the app?

New apps are interesting for young users when they are different. That’s why BeReal is fascinating for teenagers with its new and unusual features. It’s exciting and thrilling because the push message can come at any time. Then spontaneously and under time pressure, a photo must be made – without many attempts and without filters. As long as the app is new and still unfamiliar to many adults, it is particularly attractive to young people because it can set them apart.

What can be problematic about BeReal?

From the young people’s point of view, it won’t always be easy to comply with the app’s request because they won’t be able to pull out their phones at any time while at school. For some, the pressure exerted by the push message can be uncomfortable or lead to rashly taking and posting photos in private situations. There can also be social pressure to take photos that are exciting without filters and image editing, and then receive positive comments and reactions accordingly.

When registering on BeReal, personal data such as name or telephone number are collected. In addition, the IP address is stored and data is transmitted unencrypted. If access to the user’s own address book is permitted, the app providers can also access the data of non-BeReal users without being asked. There is a block function for third-party contacts in the Android app (as of September 2022) – but not yet for iOS.

The posted photos can also show other people who were not able to look over the consequences fast enough in the unexpected photo situation and then end up in the app’s public feed. Photos can also be saved and redistributed unnoticed by others via screenshot.

Behind the app is a French company with the same name: BeReal. On its website, BeReal explains the terms of use and the handling of data (privacy policy), but only in English and French.

What should parents pay attention to?

If your child is interested in the app, you should also take a closer look at BeReal – it’s best to do this together. Talk to your child about potential communication risks associated with using the app. Agree beforehand which photos may be published there, so that your child can react consciously in the pressure situation.

The app accesses many functions of the smartphone, some of which are unfounded, such as microphone and location. Check the app permissions immediately after registration and consider together with your child which accesses are necessary and useful. It is best to set the account to private so that only people in the friends list can see the posted pictures. Discuss with your child that they should only add people as friends that they actually know.

Regularly ask about your child’s usage experience and always be responsive to problems.

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