No Filters Allowed: This Up-and-Coming Social Media App Aims for Authenticity

Tired of curated feeds and over-edited photos? You'll find none of that on BeReal.

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
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Zachary McAuliffe
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Be Real app logo

BeReal wants its users to, you guessed it, be real.

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BeReal is a social media app that aims to leave behind artificial glamour and give you a more authentic way to tell your stories. Instead of carefully curated images, BeReal offers "a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life," according to the company. 

BeReal users post a picture, called a "BeReal," within a random two-minute window each day from wherever they are, doing whatever they're doing. So you probably won't see glossy, stylized photos that have been edited to hell and back. You'll more likely see your friend hanging out on the couch with their dog or cat. 

The app notifies you at the beginning of the two-minute posting window, but since the window changes daily, you can't plan what you'll be doing ahead of time. During that window, you'll snap a picture with both your front and back cameras, and the two photos are uploaded to the app simultaneously.

If you're sitting in your bed, then you'll show off your bedhead. If you're picking up food at a drive-thru, ask if the drive-thru employee wants in on the pic. If you're on the toilet... well, you get the idea. 

Founded in 2019, BeReal has been installed on about 7.5 million devices, according to Apptopia. Here's what to know about the app, including what you can and can't do.

Can I edit BeReal photos?

No. You can't spruce up your BeReal by brightening, cropping or using weird filters as you might on other social media apps. If you have bags under your eyes, then you have bags under your eyes in the post. That means you won't be subjected to heavily edited and staged photos of your friends acting as if they have a glamorous lifestyle. You can retake a photo, but the app shows people how many times you retook the picture once you post your BeReal. 

What happens if I miss the two-minute window?

If you don't post in the allotted two minutes, nothing really happens. There's no Snapchat-style streak to lose, and you can still post later. But BeReal snitches on you and tells people you posted "late." BeReal sends out push notifications each time a person posts, so your friends will know how late you posted. That sounds a little stressful in itself.

What if I don't want to post?

That's fine. You don't have to post, but then you won't be able to see other people's posts. You must actively participate in the app to see what everyone else is doing. By requiring people to post in order to see other people's posts, it ensures everyone plays along. 


You can't see posts on BeReal until you post.

Zach McAuliffe/CNET

Who sees my BeReal?

When you post your BeReal, you can either send it only to your friends or you can post it publicly and let anyone on the app see it. When you post publicly, users can find your BeReal in the app's Discovery tab. 

How do I add friends?

People choose a username when they sign up for the app, so you'll have to search for other people's usernames. You can grant the app access to your contacts when you first sign up to quickly find people you know that are already using the app. You can also find and add friends in the Discovery tab. 

Can I post my BeReal on Instagram?

You can if you want. You can see all your posted BeReals in Your Memories by tapping on your profile icon in the top-right corner, and a calendar will show your BeReals listed in chronological order. Just tap the BeReal you want, then share it on other social media or save it to your photos. (BeReal will first ask permission to access an outside app or your photos gallery.) If you want to share your BeReal on Instagram, it uploads to your Instagram Stories, and you can't edit the picture beyond adding text or a sticker.


As you post, your BeReals can be seen in Your Memories.

Zach McAuliffe/CNET

What else makes BeReal different from other social media?

Let's say you want to respond to a BeReal from a friend with a thumbs-up or a laughing face the way you would on other social media platforms. In order to do that, you have to create a "RealMoji," or a picture of you doing the corresponding emoji. So instead of just adding a pictogram of a thumbs-up, you have to send a photo of you with the gesture. If you want to convey to a friend that their BeReal was funny, snap a photo of your face appearing to laugh.

You can download BeReal for free in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

For other social media news, check out how you can use social media for good, some Facebook alternatives and why early MySpace was the peak of social media