September 29, 2015

Beme and Social Media’s Authenticity War

Social media platforms are constantly battling the line between the online-self and the offline-self. Online, it would appear that everyone is happy, successful and thriving. On Facebook and Instagram especially, users can project a polished digital version of themselves instead of an honest representation of the reality. Users can decide what they share with the world and what they keep private. However, the rise of apps like Snapchat mark a turn away from the priority of projecting perfection, and toward a more honest, raw, and unfiltered version of people’s day-to-day life. Many social media apps allow the user to edit, airbrush and perfect a digital version of themselves before sharing with the world, leaving little room for the life posted online and the life lived every second to align.

To account for this perceived exhaustion with social media perfectionism, Beme, a new video app, removes the filters, the tags, and all the bells and whistles of editing.

Beme allows users to share a 4-second video, with no editing capabilty. The second you stop recording, the video goes live to your followers. To post, users hold the phone against their chest or, any surface that blocks the screen, and the video automatically posts. Beme is completely designed around limiting the amount of screen-time you spend focusing on your smartphone. Users don’t have to stop looking at the sunset to post a picture showing how beautiful the sunset is. People can stay in the moment and allow others in, without taking time to add a filter and do a retake. As a girl that grew up with two photographer parents from the darkroom ages, it reminded me of developing film negatives and hoping for the best, a type of raw, uncontrolled product that the first wave of the social media age had done away with.

However, it remains to be seen how well this mentality is aligning with user interest. Do people really want a social media platform that’s designed to remove your ability to control the image you post? Is the highly curated, filtered and edited platform actually more interesting? Also, it’s not as if in photo and video apps  there isn’t an option for users to be more authentic (#nofilter, anyone?). It stands to reason that if people are so desperately craving “authenticity,” they can simply choose to upload unedited, undoctored photos and videos to their existing social media platforms, rather than adopt a new platform altogether.

Beme certainly presents an interesting conceit of utilizing the iPhone’s proximity sensor (although that’s presenting a pretty glaring problem for women), but it’s central idea of unedited video that mirrors a live stream is already being jumped on by apps like Periscope and Meerkat, let alone the 100 million people who send off-the-cuff photo and video on Snapchat every day. Our biggest question: What does Beme offer that our current favorite apps don’t already do for us?