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Imitation: The Highest Form of Flattery or the Downfall of Social Media?

As new social media platforms crop up daily, it is no surprise that they’re seeking to hand-pick the best elements from their competitors to stay relevant. Over the past decade, social media giants have gradually become compilations of their more niche counterparts. Instagram, for example, is notorious for replicating features that other platforms had first. From adding stories like Snapchat to debuting Reels inspired by TikTok, Instagram has become nearly unrecognizable from the simple picture-sharing platform it once was. Major platforms now feel oversaturated with all the same features, which can only make users aware that their main focus is to line their own pockets.

There are some perks to integrating features from other platforms into their interfaces. For example, Instagram recently mimicked BeReal’s functionality on its platform. Concepts such as BeReal might work better within larger apps than on their own. Minimizing the number of apps required to remain “socially relevant” widens the entryway for users to engage with the latest trends — and saves storage space.

Yet, users don’t view this integration as the big favor that larger platforms seem to think it is. Gen Z, the most digital generation, is both a victim of and well-aware of the ploys used by companies to increase screen time and advertising revenue. Gen Z has a keen eye for which platforms are “authentic” – having a greater purpose than driving profits for its parent company – and which are not. This “authenticity” is strongly sought and can’t be faked.

For BeReal, the limited functionality contributes to the ethos of the app. It is meant to showcase the user in the moment and embody its name. Putting BeReal’s functionality on Instagram turns this feature into another tool used to extract greater advertising revenue from consumers and brands. Gen Z might seek smaller, limited platforms like BeReal to escape the capitalistic goals held by larger companies and regain the genuine quality of social media.

But does Gen Z find BeReal to still be real? The popular app has yet to implement any new or alternative features besides its original dual-picture posting. It’s unique because it stays true to the single function the platform offers. Unlike other social media platforms, BeReal doesn’t generate advertising revenue, maintaining that the sole objective of the app is to capture one’s candid moments. So, yes, as long as BeReal holds on to this objective, it has earned a distinct space in the market.

BeReal’s commitment to its mission and simple interface are what Gen Z craves in a moment of social media fatigue and advertising overload. If the platform can keep that up, it will always have something that Instagram can’t copy.


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