One of the biggest smartphone apps of 2022 is all about its users being real. Real as in, photos with no filters captured at a random time during the day.

BeReal has seen incredible growth this year and still sits near the top of the App Store charts with over 10 million daily users. If you’re over 30, don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what BeReal is. Most of its users are between the ages of 16-29.

It’s especially popular on college campuses. “It’s crazy. I will see people walking to class and go BeReal…ahhhhh”, said Penn State University student Courtney MacKenzie. “It went off at two games that we had at home and everyone is just like, ‘be real! It’s honestly a crazy community.” How does it work?

Every day all BeReal users get a notification to take a photo. You have 2 minutes to snap it, whatever you’re doing, and no matter what you look like. The app takes a picture of what you’re doing with the rear-facing camera and a selfie from the front-facing camera.

The photo is uploaded and shared with all of the BeReal community. Only no one knows when the notification is coming. You can’t use a photo from your camera roll. There are also no filters.

Some call it the anti-Instagram. “It does incorporate that part of social media that we don’t see,” said MacKenzie. “There’s Instagram it seems like people have the perfect lives and you only post what’s good in your life. So when a BeReal is happening, it kind of removes that aspect.

Sure, people wish it was happening when they’re doing something fun but I kind of like that it doesn’t because it doesn’t make other people feel bad for just sitting in bed or watching a TV show or whatever. And it also doesn’t make people feel like they’re missing out on something.”

I met Courtney over the summer at a family gathering when a BeReal notification popped up on our phones. We both grabbed our phones and noticed the other was also taking a selfie. We immediately knew what the other was doing.

It happened to me again a couple of months ago when a family nearby posed for a photo at the exact same time I did.

On TikTok, there are dozens of clips where people recorded crowds of people taking selfies when their BeReal notifications came over their phones.

Is BeReal safe? It gathers the same information as other social media apps, but in some ways, it’s safer. You can’t scroll through someone’s BeReal history. You only see their latest photo until the next BeReal takes place. You can’t send messages to someone else. Your only options are to leave a comment or an emoji which are both shared publicly.

Another bonus is that Courtney and all other BeReal enthusiasts have a daily photo diary of what they were doing each day of the year. “That’s probably my favorite aspect.

It just reminds me to take a picture of what I’m doing during the day.” BeReal is a free app for iPhones and Android devices.