Why Being Real Is the New Perfect — How "Anti-Instagram" Apps Are Changing Social Media "Anti-Instagram" apps may still be niche trends, but their existence indicates an important shift toward authenticity in online sharing.
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As social media has advanced, it has led to an unauthentic depiction of life online. Filtered photos, meticulously crafted captions and the constant need to impress have left many yearning for something more real online.
There is an increasing desire for sincere bonding and less staged experiences on social media, particularly platforms like Instagram or Snapchat. Overly staged posts may make some users feel inferior compared to others and foster an environment in which self-worth is tied directly to likes and followers.
Why people got tired of "picture-perfect."
Instagram and other photo-centric social networks have enabled a false portrayal of reality. On Instagram, everyone seems to live an ideal existence filled with extravagant vacations, delicious meals and beautifully decorated homes. Many have been left feeling inadequate after continually viewing images depicting idealized lives, leading them to develop a fear of missing out.
To counteract this "Instagram effect," new social apps focusing on authenticity and vulnerability have emerged. So-called "anti-Instagram" apps allow users to express themselves more honestly without worrying about likes. These new social platforms fulfill users' need for authenticity by encouraging sharing of real moments and creating digital spaces where life doesn't need to appear wildly interesting or aspirational.
BeReal: The quest for authenticity
BeReal was one of the driving forces behind this shift, offering a platform that encourages sharing authentic moments rather than seeking perfection in everything posted online. The app prompts users once a day at a random time to take and share an unedited photo of whatever they're doing. Photos disappear after 24 hours, pushing users to share spontaneous glimpses of their actual lives rather than carefully staged posts.
Since launching in 2020, BeReal has gained immense popularity among Gen Z users and college students, boasting over 20 million daily active users. Its growth indicates an appetite among younger users for social media experiences that focus more on honesty rather than perfectionism.
Before this spring, the BeReal app had not undergone much development. Recently, it launched an integration with Spotify to display users' listening activity when they post their BeReal. Additionally, the app introduced the Bonus feature, enabling users to post multiple BeReals within 24 hours if their first one was submitted on time. BeReal is currently working on creating a chat feature and plans to test it with users in Ireland. Private messaging is a much-desired feature among users, according to the company.
TikTok Now: Authentic Short Videos
Success often breeds imitation, and TikTok, one of the most widely-used apps worldwide, has created its own version of BeReal called TikTok Now. TikTok Now mimics the functionality of its counterpart app in terms of appearance and operation but stands out from BeReal by allowing users to take photos and videos. Users can take a photo by tapping once on the capture button or record up to ten seconds of video by holding down on it for 10 seconds.
The app has entered the top 100 iPhone Social Networking apps across five markets — Madagascar, Mozambique, Kenya, Malta and Singapore. Additionally, it has earned the top 500 iPhone Social Networking apps ranking in 38 countries. Also, TikTok Now has amassed over 10 million installations on Play Store. TikTok has not provided details regarding its strategy for TikTok Now. All that has been indicated so far is that it is currently "experimenting" with this feature.
RAW: Unfiltered dating
Unfiltered back and front photos aren't just limited to social media platforms. This attribute has also made its way into the dating realm. The RAW dating app is leading this trend, as it's built around the concept of spontaneous eye contact.
As always, users receive notifications prompting them to take photos of themselves and their surroundings to access their dating feed. Before matching, users' full profiles remain hidden, with only real-time photos being visible. This experience simulates meeting new people for real. At first, only an initial impression may form, but over time you will gain more insights into who they really are.
Some users may find inventive dating platforms like this liberating. Without the pressure to create an idealized version of oneself, it offers freedom from overly perfect portrayals of life. Low-pressure environments like this encourage users to share more frequently and make deeper connections, which is especially valued in the dating sphere.
How brands can embrace the real
Authenticity has become one of the most priceless qualities on social media. Many brands have started adopting raw and unfiltered content to connect more directly with their audiences.
Brands may take advantage of "anti-Instagram" apps in various ways to increase customer retention and engagement. Fashion and beauty brands may post informal behind-the-scenes videos from their photoshoots. Companies can highlight all employees, not just models, in their promotional videos. Some brands could encourage their followers to share stories, photos, videos, and reviews regarding the brand. Although refined, This type of content tends to resonate more with audiences than carefully crafted campaign images.
The future of social media authenticity
Instagram remains popular, yet these "anti-Instagram" apps have found a loyal following of users seeking more genuine social media experiences. These platforms that promote vulnerability demonstrate that some users are willing to embrace and share the messy realities of life rather than only showing their best moments. These users see realness— rather than perfection — as their ultimate goal on social media.
Social media will likely always include some element of performance. Although curated feeds will likely persist for influencers and brands, ordinary users seem to crave a more realistic view of each other's lives. These new apps are showing that authenticity and vulnerability can be just as engaging as glossy posts.
"Anti-Instagram" apps may still be niche trends, but their existence indicates an important shift toward authenticity in online sharing. Their rise could signal the end of curated social media and mark a transition into digital connections that are both polished and unguarded.