By Shubhangi Shah
There are apps that prompt you to share unfiltered and authentic version of yourself You click a selfie. Nah! Didn’t like it. You click again from 10 different angles before you get it. Spot on! Next, you sieve through filters to single out the one that clicks, literally of course. Now comes the caption. You scratch your head hard. Try a quote, it doesn’t work. Then a line from a book you found peppy. It works. Now the hashtags. It’s not a thing worth fretting over, so you mindlessly insert a couple of them and post. Your notifications start buzzing, a like here, a comment there, driving that dopamine rush in your brain. No more chatter, it has been some time, you mindlessly scroll through your feed till you get another notification, and you bask through another dopamine rush.
Yes, this is a gross generalisation of the scenario when one posts on Instagram. But it captures the elements. However, what it doesn’t capture is the undercurrent. The anxiety some feel, the constant comparison with others and oneself, the stress it generates, the inferiority one feels seeing others’ Instagrammable lives. In fact, its harms have been well-documented. A survey by Facebook (now Meta), Instagram’s parent company itself found it to be harmful to teens. The massively famous photo-sharing app was found to exacerbate body image issues, depression, and anxiety.
So, what is the way out? Well, there are apps providing an alternative, the ‘anti-Instagrams’ if you will.
BeReal is one such app. Its name is enough to tell you that it falls in the anti-Insta league by prompting users to share a real and unfiltered version of themselves. Tapping on the lack of authenticity available online, the app gives you a two-minute window randomly in the day to click a picture of yourself. You do it synchronously with your front and rear camera to give a glimpse of yourself and what you are doing. There are no filters, but you can add a caption. You can also comment on others’ posts through text or your personalised reaction photos called RealMojis. So apart from being anti-Instagram, this app also offers a Snapchat-like experience where you get a peek inside what your friends are doing. It’s also ad-free, an experience many social media users might like.
Although launched in 2019, BeReal has reached a breakthrough of a sort this year. It saw about 3.3 million downloads in the first quarter this year, up by 390% from the fourth quarter of last year, as per a report by data.ai . Reports suggest it is gaining momentum in the US and Europe, mostly among teens. However, the same is yet to happen in India.
BeReal is the latest but not the only ‘anti-Insta’ app there is. Last year, an app called ‘Dispo’ generated a similar buzz. A photo-sharing app, it aims at simulating the disposable camera experience where you click a picture but have to wait for hours for it to ‘develop’ to see it.
With no scope for quick reactions and gratifications, you get a more immersive experience. Obviously, you cannot edit them or add filters, stickers, or texts. The buzz, however, soon died down.Taking the focus off you is the 2021 app Poparazzi. An anti-selfie app of sorts, it doesn’t allow you to take your pictures but only of those around you. Hence, in a way, you become paparazzi for your friends, which explains the app’s name.“We built Poparazzi to take away the pressure to be perfect,” the company said in a Medium post during its launch last year. “We did this by not allowing you to post photos of yourself, putting the emphasis where it should’ve been all along: on the people you’re with. On Poparazzi, you are your friend’s paparazzi, and they are yours,” it added.
Platforms like BeReal are offering an alternative, thus generating a buzz. However, it still isn’t loud enough to put any dent in the empire of the social media platform that has over three billion users. Their USP is that they are ‘anti-Instagram’. But what if the platform itself comes up with similar features. Remember how it rolled out Insta reels, the short 90-seconds video feature, in no time right after TikTok was banned in India.A question also arises if apps have the potential to install authenticity in the virtual world. Experience till now has proved otherwise. Also, is there really a need to document oneself incessantly and not live a life as it is? A vexing question? Agreed!