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Move over, Facebook and Instagram.
There's a new photo sharing app, and it's not like other social networks.
The app is called BeReal.
And even if you haven't heard of it, many young people are already signing up.
Its monthly active users have soared this year by more than 315%, according to April data from Apptopia, which tracks and analyzes performance.
We joined the app and talked to users to learn more about how BeReal works and what there is to know about it.
What is BeReal?
BeReal is a social networking app that encourages users to share a piece of their life in real time.
It was launched in early 2020 by an entrepreneur in France, but the majority of its users, at least 65%, became members only this year.
As the name suggests, the goal is authenticity.
The app invites users once a day to share a photo of what they're currently doing, giving friends and others an unvarnished view of their lives.
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It has no filters or edit buttons.
So if your hair is a mess at the moment and your view is of a rainy parking lot, that's what people will see.
The result is a far cry from the polished, overly manicured photos that are popular on other social media platforms.
The BeReal app was launched at the end of 2020 and is rapidly growing in popularity among young people.
Credit: Austin Steele/CNN
How does it work?
The concept of BeReal is simple.
Once you download the app, you get a notification once a day that it's time to "BeReal".
That means you have two minutes to take and post a picture of what you're doing, no matter how mundane.
There is no fixed time: the notification comes at random times of the day, adding to the mystery of the app.
"Push notifications are sent simultaneously around the world at different times of the day," the company explains in a statement.
"It's a secret how the time is chosen each day, it's not random."
That means that the potential window into your life can open at any time.
When it does, the app invites you to take a photo of what you're doing at the time.
It takes a double photo: a selfie and one that shows what is in front of you.
(BeReal does not allow videos yet).
The result is a social feed filled with raw photos of people doing unglamorous, everyday things: lounging in pajamas, doing homework, riding the bus, microwaving dinner.
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With just one post a day, there's no clutter of friends' photos to mindlessly scroll through.
You can only see your friends' posts if you share a photo, which eliminates stalkers.
Some people disable their location for privacy reasons as the app works in real time.
Georgetown University student Ben Telerski, 21, is an avid social media user and joined the app in August.
What I like about BeReal is that I can connect with my friends through social media on a platform that doesn't encourage likes, comments, or being artificial.
... just show your friends what you're doing at the time the daily alert goes off," says Telerski, a third-year student majoring in governance.
Telerski says that the posts you see on the app are generally more authentic compared to other social media platforms.
"I try to post as soon as I see the notification, even if I'm sitting up in bed or walking to class," he says.
"I think the amount of authenticity depends on the person you believe in on social media. If someone is trying to keep their social media presence very polished and produced, BeReal is not the app to use."
Ben Telerski and Alexandra Henn in an image from their BeReal app.
The app takes a double photo that shows the user's selfie and what is in front of them.
Courtesy of Ben Telerski
What happens if it is not published in two minutes?
When the BeReal notification is pressed once a day, the camera opens within the app along with a two-minute countdown timer.
You have until the timer runs out to take a picture of what's in front of you.
At the same time, the rear camera takes a selfie.
The app will share both images.
You can take them again at any time during the two minutes and share them with your friends when you're ready.
BeReal also allows users to take and post the photo later in the day.
But let your friends know how many hours have passed between the notification time and the post time.
In short, it calls you out for your lack of spontaneity.
Why do people use it?
BeReal has focused its marketing on college campuses.
The app recruits young users through its university ambassador program, which allows students to organize events to promote the app.
Telerski believes the app is popular because it's an antidote to pressure to appear perfect online.
"I've seen a lot of news lately about the negative impact of social media on Gen Z's mental health. I don't know if BeReal is trying to directly combat this problem, but it's certainly making progress towards that goal," he says.
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Morgan Nott, 26, runs a tea shop in Reno and is a newbie to the app.
She started using it last week at the suggestion of a friend of hers.
Nott says she finds it refreshing to get a non-idealized, untouched view of other people's lives.
"It's the authenticity that makes it so appealing. Users aren't as glamorous or fake as some may make themselves out to be on other platforms," he says.
"It's something different."
In a statement, BeReal states that its goal is to create "an alternative to addictive social networks" that focus on amassing influence, it says.
"BeReal is your chance to show your friends who you really are," says the company.
"BeReal won't make you famous, if you want to become an influencer you can stay on TikTok and Instagram."
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Are BeReal posts really that authentic?
The app doesn't give you much time to do your makeup or stage your surroundings before taking and posting the photos.
But some users may try to "heal" their lives on the app.
"There's a chance to be as artificial on BeReal as people tend to be on other platforms," says Telerski.
Some people might ignore the notification to post at a certain time and wait to post until they're dressed and out to dinner with friends, he says.
"That's not in the spirit of BeReal and completely defeats the purpose," he says.
"BeReal should be full of photos of (people) walking around, doing homework and sitting up in bed watching Netflix."
The young people CNN spoke with have no plans to quit Instagram, TikTok and other social media apps.
Nott says he plans to keep letting his guard down on BeReal, and posting on other social platforms.
Telerski says that he tries to maintain a certain level of authenticity on social media, regardless of the platform.
Authenticity is determined by a person, not an app, he says.
"For those who think we need a new social network to be really authentic, maybe we should take it as a sign to be more authentic in our social media presence," he says.
"Think about the original purpose of social media: real connection with family and friends to stay on top of your life. Maybe we should go back to that."