INSTAGRAM & BEREAL: A GEN Z PERSPECTIVE


INTRODUCTION

Instagram is the home of polished pictures, face-smoothing filters and doom scrolling through hundreds and hundreds of perfect images of perfect lives – or at least it used to be. As a 1998 baby and a firm member of Gen Z, we are no longer interested in using an app that houses picture perfect photo albums. Gen Z want people to be real and authentic, and our calls were answered through BeReal; the photo sharing app that focuses solely on raw, unfiltered, in the moment life sharing with your friends or otherwise. But does the boom of BeReal mean that Instagram has been made redundant by Gen Z, or is it just another app to live on our home screens?
TOXIC-GRAM

When I think of millennials, I think of avocado toast, moustache merch, and the early days of Instagram. Teens and 20s dominate social media and its direction, but millennials were the original audience of Instagram when it began in 2015. However, the millennials got older, and Gen Z got old enough to take over and say this isn’t what we want social to be.

The push back of perfect social media had begun prior to the Lockdown, but it was accelerated at a speed that would not have happened if we hadn’t all been shut inside with nothing to do but scroll. TikTok had begun to be the hub for social sharing and entertainment. The lo-fi content taking over my social hours meant that it was what I was becoming accustomed to and more receptive of, and this experience was shared with my peers.

But as the borderline Gen Z, I have some nostalgia and love for the ‘cool’ millennials who had a place to share quick photos, and as I am obsessed with clothes, IG was the Mecca for fashion inspiration. I discovered a group on Instagram of ‘midsize’ creators, the niche in which I grew my account to over 100,000 followers in 18 months. As people take control of their social feeds and unfollow the polished Molly-Maes of the world, they’re looking for unfiltered real life. I think the idea of Instagram in a millennials mind is very different to what it is to a Gen Z; we aren’t caught in the belief we need to look perfect online all the time, and Gen Z have become the catalyst for social evolution.




BEREAL JOINS THE SOCIAL MEDIA CLUB

The evolution of IG isn’t the experience of every user, and Gen Z ‘s reclaiming of the app hasn’t reckoned with everyone. Millennials want Instagram to be Instagram again and return to the days of polished photo sharing. However, Gen Z are loud with their demand for real social media, something that will give us a fresh start as Gen Z’s rather than inheriting the social landscape moulded by millennials.

Enter: BeReal. Launched in 2020, BeReal is an app that’s taken Gen Z by storm. There are currently about 10 million daily users, and downloads have reached over 20 million. A nod to the early days of the internet, the concept of BeReal is very simple – everyone who has the app gets a notification at the same time warning them they have 2 minutes to BeReal and post a picture of themselves and what they’re doing in that 2-minute time frame. The notification is sent at a different time each day, but all users get the notification in sync. Your friends are notified if you post late, so if you’re being ‘fake’, they’ll all know.

You also get one chance to take the photo, and if you do a retake, all your friends will be notified. Whilst this doesn’t sound daunting and you’d just shrug it off and re-take, it’s actually not very BeReal minded to re-take. I rarely see any of my friend's re-take, as the fun and the laughs from the app is in that first shot. Whilst some have criticised the app for being all about authenticity but allowing re-takes/late BeReals, people who use the app are largely embracing the features and a culture exists around the app to follow the rules and get into the spirit.

I love BeReal as it is an escape from the typical social media we have become accustomed too. The shameless house party photo albums that once filled MySpace pages was not something myself or other Gen Z’s got to experience, with the power and repercussions of social media not apparent to millennials in 2008. We are now all too aware of what social media is and how it can be a very toxic place, with trolls and comments being able to infiltrate any corner of the internet. There is no pressure on BeReal, your photo disappears from others feeds by the time the next notification comes around, and it allows Gen Z to experience the internet as it was made to be.

BeReal is also one of the only places on social media you can go and be totally advert-free, truly bringing back the crux of why social media began. The app neatly syncs up to your phone contacts so you can add your friends easily, steering the focus of follows and friends on the app to be real life connections you already have.


 



BEREAL BRANDS? NO THANK YOU

BeReal is still in its very early days. Brands haven’t been able to navigate an authentic and natural way into the app – yet. With brands desperate to advertise through social as people turn off the telly in favour of advert-free streaming sites and social scrolling, the space for advertisement has been forced into our feeds. Whilst it’s certainly natural for agencies to recommend and search for a way for clients to penetrate BeReal in the most platform-first way, it won’t be so easy to exist on an app so focused on being natural, separate from any sign offs or creative briefs.

It’s also clear other social media platforms see the value of BeReal, and our favourite ‘parrot platform’ Instagram has already tried a test to emulate the entire concept that is BeReal. They’ve called this feature ‘Candid’.

I think Instagram and BeReal have two separate purposes as social media apps, and people will go to both for different reasons. Instagram is a form of digital photo album, focusing on likes, discovery and interacting with larger brands and celebrities. BeReal is one photo a day, focused on your close friends and family, free from any corporate intervention in the form of marketing. Keeping distinct features that makes the app what first drew us to it is what will keep the users engaged. The two exist to give a different experience on social media, and it should also be noted to brands this is also how Gen Z view the two.

If brands begin to use BeReal, it will be up to the user whether they are added or not. Gen Z will literally be able to decide themselves if brands are able to enter the space due to the ‘friend request’ feature and lack of a popular feed/FYP, as well as no hashtags or ad placements. Maybe brands with strong reputations to Gen Z already might get some requests accepted, but it doesn’t feel authentic to the app and the reason we use it. Brands have access to so many platforms to advertise, and as BeReal has a really low screen use time and very little scrollability. It’ll be tough to make any sort of waves on BeReal as the app currently is.



CONCLUSION

Instagram and BeReal both exist to give Gen Z two separate purposes on social. Both apps have a cosy and stable home on our home screens and are very unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon.






                                                                                    
    

















                                                                                   
































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