It’s interesting timing that the news of Instagram seemingly taking on BeReal, the social app wildly popular with Gen Z, would make waves just after the release of the Pew report’s finding that Facebook is all but dead with the generation.
While Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has made note in the past of its intentions to reclaim the demographic, Gen Z seems to have one simple response for Facebook: “OK, boomer.”
Not quite so with Instagram—at least for now—and it looks as though Meta is throwing everything it can at its champion social media network to stay relevant. Will it work? I think so. But I’m a millennial.
So here’s what’s happening: Last month, Instagram quietly added a new dual camera feature in Stories—one that, much like BeReal, an app popular among Gen Z that’s been covered here a few times, puts a picture-in-picture image of whatever you’re photographing before you, with an automatic selfie. In what was to be only a matter of time, some Instagram users have started to receive notifications that they can take part in a new feature, and it sounds a lot like BeReal.
ℹ️ Add other’s IG Candid to your story tray. And everyday at a different time, get a notification to capture and share a Photo in 2 Minutes. pic.twitter.com/caTCgUPtEV
— Alessandro Paluzzi (@alex193a) August 22, 2022
“Join IG Candid Challenges,” a screenshot of the Instagram test reads. “Add other’s IG Candid to your story tray. And every day at a different time, get a notification to capture and share a photo in 2 minutes.”
Sound familiar? Because it’s literally the premise of BeReal. Does this spell trouble for the up-and-coming app? Could be, then again, maybe not.
So here’s the millennial point of view: I like Instagram. I’ve established my friends and followers on the app, it’s convenient, and even when it mercilessly rips off other apps like Snapchat, TikTok, and now BeReal, I adopt those features because they’re fun and I can share them with my friends who also find themselves powerless to resist, because we’ve settled in here. I’m currently using BeReal, and I think the premise is awesome—I love the spontaneity of it and the raw, unfiltered photos. However, I don’t interact with a lot of friends there (and it’s purposely hard to search for and follow people), so I see the perks of Instagram copping its premise, as icky as that is.
There was a time, back before Gen Z can most certainly remember, when Facebook was the be-all and end-all. When we used to spend hours creating photo albums and tagging our friends and liking and commenting on every single one of the photos and we thought, “All our stuff is here, how can we go anywhere else?” And we greeted Instagram with skeptical eyes and now, yet again, we can’t imagine another place to “hang out” although many of us, much like Gen Z, have also abandoned Facebook (turns out, it wasn’t really that hard to do).
So while many millennials might be harder to pry away from Instagram, especially as it continues to take the best elements from other social apps and wraps them neatly into one complete, morally questionable little package, it’s not impossible, and Gen Z might not be quite so forgiving.
Viewers have already expressed their distaste for the app’s obvious push to be more like TikTok, instead, opting to spend more time on actual TikTok and BeReal to boot. But there haven’t been any major reports of the generation jumping ship with Instagram as they have with Facebook, which begs the question, what do they actually think of the app?
So I asked my cousin Stephanie Yaeger, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based architectural associate who technically bridges the gap between millennials and Gen Z (but for this purpose we’ll let her keep space with the younger generation), how her and her peers are feeling about the apps these days.
“IG is my go-to, but I hate that they try to become every other social media app,” she says. “I like having different apps for different things. I only want to post a BeReal to people that I’m friends with and don’t care about looking nice for—I don’t want that on my Instagram.”
Stephanie has a point, despite my feeling that one-stop shopping for all your social media needs has its perks—Instagram is not reading the room with its potential BeReal clone. For years, we’ve talked about how Instagram is a highlight reel of users’ lives. And while during the last several years many users have opted to be more transparent, Instagram’s still far and away from “being real,” and that’s OK—so long as we can accept that. But there’s a definite vibe clash with this latest quest to conquer social media by Instagram here, and you have to wonder if the powers that be are even aware of it.
Not that it matters. Many on Instagram haven’t even heard of BeReal, and they’ll take to this new feature, if it gets released to all users, like fish to water. I know I’ll use it—it’s a fun concept and one can argue that this chips away at the polished facade Instagram users have long maintained, which brings us all a little closer to being normal humans.
But will Gen Z see through this strategy and finally call it quits on the ‘Gram? Somehow it seems unlikely, but time will tell. And as for those sitting back and wondering how on earth to reach their newest generation of customers, it seems evident that sticking to Instagram is the obvious way to go, but don’t discount the up-and-comers.
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