Plenty has been written on Instagram’s steady march to humiliation, its transformation from a crown jewel of the Metaverse to the place where coolness dies. Where elder millennials still post sunsets paired with tortured quotes. The place to get inundated with performance, far-flung D-list influencers “eligible for commission,” and whatever else is spat out by “the algorithm”—now a tired catchall for complaints about existing on the internet.
But instead of cleaning house, the perennially panicked, overpaid folks at Instagram appear hellbent on extending its reputation for stealing good ideas. This time, it’s BeReal. Speaking to the Verge, the company confirmed that it is indeed testing a feature resembling BeReal, but appeared to stress that it’s just an internal trial. Whether it jacks another app remains to be determined.
But while this development may strike some as inevitable, I can’t help but feel pathetically annoyed over the potential destruction of what I have privately declared as the last stop in my social media journey. BeReal—the Paris-based app that alerts users once a day, at an unpredictable time, to post a photo of whatever they’re doing—is where I’ve turned for exactly the kind of dumb inanity that such a description signals. I’ve limited my audience to exactly four close friends, three of whom have since formed the equally inane, grammatically challenged, group chat titled, “WHEN WILL GET TO BE REAL,” as a sort of motivating reminder that I’m posting among those who will not judge; I can be as “authentic” as possible—again, whatever that means anymore. While some have hailed it as a form of defiance from “surveillance capitalism,” I tend to enjoy it because it’s deliriously stupid and simple to use. My selfies are some of the ugliest photos I’ve ever committed to the internet.
It’s early days and therefore the app remains exceedingly janky, almost Web 2.0-ish. Participation is just once a day, and if you’re not in the mood, you are free to ignore the alert. It’s the anti-time suck, and for now ad-free, though I’m fully aware that no one creates the app of tomorrow without a keen eye toward making a buck—or a billion.
Still, the news that Instagram is testing something called “IG Candid Challenge”—a name already dripping in Google Slides, vulture-speak—feels frustrating to me. But maybe that’s the oldest-millennial response I could have. Feelings over a social media platform? Sure sounds lame.