The other day I decided to post on BeReal – probably a blurry closeup of my face – because I hadn’t opened the app in ages and wanted to see what everyone was up to What. So I hit publish and wait, and… nothing. No one else posted at all. It was just a lo-fi image of myself, staring at me completely invisible. Over the course of a few weeks, BeReal turned into a digital ghost town.
Apparently, I’m not the only one using the once-popular photo-sharing app. According to app intelligence firm Apptopia, BeReal’s daily active users nearly halved from October 2023 to February 2023, from 20 plummet) million to .4 million. Since then, the number of daily active users has fallen further, falling to nearly 6 million active users in March. The real novelty seems to have really worn off.
There’s a lot that can be said about why BeReal didn’t stick around. For starters, it takes effort to keep up. It’s not just BeReal that seems to be struggling right now. More broadly, social media appears to be in the midst of a massive identity crisis. Twitter users have been in steady decline since Elon Musk 333 took over (verified users lost their blue checkmark this month, leading to further discontent and distrust). Instagram is outdated among young users. And, despite its immense popularity, TikTok still tends to attract only a certain type of poster: those who are comfortable talking to the camera, or who are unafraid of the many TikTok-isms that seem to spread like a virus. (Why does everyone use the same disjointed TikTok voice?) For example, if you’re sick of Twitter, you don’t necessarily immigrate to TikTok. People who enjoy writing don’t always enjoy talking.
To truly understand this shift, we need to consider how we used social media in the past. It used to be that there was only one prominent social media platform at any one time. In the past, it was MySpace. Then there’s Facebook. Then there’s Twitter or Instagram. Now it can be said to be TikTok. But our trust in these platforms has diminished considerably; we are now familiar with the internet. Think how mindless people are using Facebook, even just years ago, with digital images of
college students going out at night throwing up and duckfaces. With a growing awareness of how our internet histories, data, and online profiles can be used against us in various ways, we no longer broadcast our lives so blatantly. We also know that these platforms don’t always exist. The configuration file is deleted. Data is sucked into an online vortex. We will never blindly believe anything from Silicon Valley in the same way.