Glued to your screen but want to keep it real? Beme offers an approach to social media that keeps you immersed in real life experiences.
I’ve had Beme for a month now and with trial and error, I can certainly understand the appeal in such a stripped back approach to social media. Opening the main page of the app, I’m not greeted with the usual smoothie bowls and filtered selfies that Instagram offers, but a variety of first person perspective short clips of people all over the world sharing what appears to be everyday (and often mundane) experiences.
My first experiences with the app felt very experimental. I attempted to take footage of the picturesque ocean views from a cliff edge while bushwalking in Manly. I found by not being able to look directly at my camera while shooting (I’ll explain this in a minute), I could be more present in the moment and enjoy the scene without worrying about the composition, lighting, or angles of my shot. Beme also works by uploading footage without the opportunity to view it first. I am usually particular about what I upload on my social media accounts so this was a little off putting at first.
Beme works by using a proximity sensor, the small dot on the front of a mobile phone, to capture footage. The user presses the sensor to their chest or on another surface to start and stop the camera for up to eight second bursts, which developer Casey Neistat demonstrates in many of his Youtube videos. As soon as the clip is shot, it is immediately uploaded and bypasses any of the editing process we are accustomed to with more popular apps. It aims to take any unnecessary effort out of sharing footage and allow a seamless transition from shooting to sharing.
Much to my dismay, I discovered the footage I shot at first was at bizarre angles and had a slightly grainy texture. Quality aside, I was relieved of the usual ritual of sifting through filters and relevant hashtags, time that was better spent enjoying the incredible view and actively engaged in the company of friends. This is the greatest aspect of Beme and is what separates it from other established social media – the ability to take people away from screens at social activities including concerts, restaurants and sporting events while still being able to capture your moments.
I found one of the most interesting features offered is the “send a reaction” function, where instead of a comments section people send a selfie to give a response, allowing more variety than a “like” or a thumbs up. It is reminiscent of the format of Snapchat, but allows more people to react, beyond friends and contacts, and effectively breaks down any language barriers, allowing its users to make broader connections all over the world. Unfortunately it doesn’t make it easy to track down specific content, leaving users to spend more time sifting through clips to find footage of personal interest.
Social media doesn’t often offer us an opportunity to ask ourselves why we share these moments of our lives. We allow likes, comments and followers to validate our virtual lives but don’t really stop to consider the long-term repercussions. Beme encourages authenticity, vulnerability and genuine online connections. With most social media accounts, you immediately get a sense of what the person intends to show you, often a planned theme of meticulously curated high quality images. Beme doesn’t offer that luxury but beckons people to look further, to browse and pursue real connections with people, focusing on the “social” part of social media. This approach aims to break the habit of self-censorship and second guessing.
It’s an idyllic concept to want a more stripped back and authentic look into people’s everyday lives. But what makes the app different from others may also be its biggest downfall. It doesn’t offer the escapism or variety that is possible with the more carefully curated and presented imagery with which we are familiar today. With apps like Instagram, people have more hope in turning the smog haze outside their window into a magnificent sunset. We don’t all live like the app’s creator Neistat, wakeboarding through the canals of Amsterdam in a full Tux. We may not all adore the highly edited, curated self, but it’s easy to see why it is so appealing.
Beme released its beta version in 2015, and version 1.0 is available on iOS and Android as of May 2016. The new version also offers a “discovery” option and the ability to watch full screen, including a few other minor changes to its format. Its initial success and general reception has relied heavily on Neistat’s existing social media profile as a video blogger and Matt Hackett’s (Beme CTO) former experience as the VP of engineering at Tumblr. It hasn’t spent a great deal on advertising or aimed to reach record numbers of downloads as it’s spent a year at the beta stage of production, however, the app is steadily gaining traction with its users.
I can’t see myself using the app on a regular basis like Instagram or Snapchat, mainly due to the quality of footage and the often mundane subject matter that currently fills Beme. I genuinely hope this changes as the concept is far more virtuous than most social media platforms. However, despite Beme’s honorable intentions, it falls short on delivery, leaving room for improvement in the future. – Caitlyn Hurley