Morning Brew - ☕️ Getting real

How authentic is BeReal?

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November 06, 2022 | View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Allie Sullberg

IN THIS ISSUE

What do I bonds and Taylor Swift have in common?

Is it possible to be real on BeReal?

The Daily Show’s Jen Flanz on her Junior High Talent Show

 

VIBE CHECK

 

When pork is smoked, it turns pink.”—an employee of Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue in Raleigh, shortly before a customer called the police to complain about the pork being pink

You get one tweet that’s stupid and suddenly everybody’s obsessed with the tweet.”—former President Barack Obama in a speech on Wednesday

We’re all working for the Trump White House.”—a Twitter employee to the Washington Post, describing the feeling of watching Elon Musk tweet new company policies

 

GREAT DEBATE

 

Sherry Qin

 

GROUP CHAT

 

‘I bonds’ are the Taylor Swift of investment

‘I bonds’ are the Taylor Swift of investment

A week after Taylor Swift’s Billboard-record-breaking album, Midnights, dropped, another humble vanilla product broke the internet: Series I Savings Bonds, aka “I bonds.”

Nearly $1 billion in I bonds was sold on October 28, flooding the Treasury website with so much traffic that it crashed. Compared to other headline-making financial instruments (see: million-dollar NFTs and hyper-leveraged day trades)—the I bond is boring. And that’s probably why it’s so popular.

I bonds are securities issued by the US government that fully mature in 30 years. Before November 1, the annual interest rate was 9.62%. It’s currently 6.89%. People flocked to the Treasury Direct site—the only place where I bonds can be bought—before November 1 to lock in that higher rate, as the Fed continues to fight the fastest-rising inflation in four decades. I bonds are a type of security meant to serve as inflation protection.

Like some crypto products, I bonds are touted as “nearly risk-free,” though the latter’s promise comes from the US government, and not a CEO who may flee the country at any moment. These I bond securities are also inherently less sexy than high-volatility products that can be bought and sold within days and that may experience “surprise” windfalls if event X or Y occurs. These savings bonds are not designed for frequent trading—they can’t be cashed out until they’ve been held for a year. And I bonds cashed within five years of purchase are subject to a three-month interest loss penalty.

It makes more sense to think of I bonds as competitors to longer-term options, like savings accounts. Even at the new 6.89% interest rate, I bonds are “still very attractive for a very low risk investment,” said Barbara O’Neill, the owner and CEO of MoneyTalk. Savings accounts currently have an average interest rate of 0.16%.

If these products sound like a great, low-risk way to park your millions, you’re out of luck. You can only buy up to $10,000 worth of I bonds per year through Treasury Direct. In addition, you can also opt to receive up to $5,000 of your federal tax refund as an I bond. (But if you have more than $15,000 to stash away: Congrats!)

O’Neill described I bonds as “America’s best-kept secret” in a March blog post. Now, she’s not sure if that phrase rings true, citing recent media coverage. “The secret is out,” she said.

Ashwin Rodrigues

     
 
Origin Investments
 

LONG READ

 

Let’s be real about BeReal

Let’s be real about BeReal Allie Sullberg

At 7:39pm on a Sunday, a notification shows up on my phone screen: “Time to BeReal. 2 min left to capture a BeReal and see what your friends are up to!” It’s from the latest buzzy social media app that claims to be “your chance to show your friends who you really are.” The notification popped up as I was lying in bed scrolling through my phone. My two-way picture turns out wonky: On the selfie side, my face is distorted and at an angle; on the other side, my friends can study my plain white ceiling.

BeReal is the social media app that is considered to be more authentic, or the “anti-Instagram.” It sends a push notification once a day, at a random time, and users then have two minutes to take a dual-camera picture with their phone’s front- and back cameras. There are no likes and no reposts. Miles Teller’s recent Saturday Night Live skit best explains the authenticity BeReal strives for. When the BeReal notification goes off during a bank robbery, Teller, the robber, is sucked into an irresistible BeReal moment as he has to be real. He’s so real, he captures his crime on the app and ends up in jail.

But since I wasn’t robbing banks, I found that authenticity got surprisingly boring after two weeks, since not all BeReal notifications find its users in the middle of crime or similarly exciting situations. In the first few days of using BeReal, I scrambled to manufacture the most interesting thing possible during the two-minute window, but I quickly gave up and picked up TikTok again. Since I work from home, my daily routine is repetitive—the app reinforced that. But it’s not just me and my lackluster life that’s the issue. Everyone else I followed on the app seems to go through this, too. I saw a lot of messy bedrooms, computer screens, and—less frequently—Instagram-like selfies of someone walking on a picturesque street.

I asked other users if they feel the same way, and if BeReal’s claims of authenticity were just hype. “I love BeReal,” Madison Imig, who goes by M, a senior at the University of Nebraska, said via Twitter DM. “It’s like, my fav thing,” Imig said. And it’s not just Imig: Their peers agree.

BeReal arrived as a referendum on Instagram’s and TikTok’s highly curated content and algorithm-driven feeds. The app reintroduced casualness, patience, and scarcity, which have largely been discarded by competitors. But the authenticity it promised is subject to debate. Sociologists have called the presentation of self in everyday life a performance. Realness is hard to define IRL, let alone on social media. For BeReal, authenticity is synonymous with novelty. It’s a strategic move for the company to be able to distance itself from the value proposition of Instagram and TikTok. But it still hasn’t found its way to monetizing the app, and no one knows how long it will stay ad-free and influencer-free.

Founded by French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, BeReal was launched in December 2019, but it didn’t take off until early 2022, when it introduced its student ambassador program. BeReal now has 15 million daily active users as of September, most of whom are in the United States. That’s up from just 10,000 in March 2021, according to insiders who spoke to the Financial Times.

BeReal users who spoke to Morning Brew agreed that the app is boring, but said that was one of its biggest appeals. “It does get repetitive and it’s a bit mundane, sure,” Imig said. “But it’s a moment that I get to take to think about my friends without getting obsessive or jealous.”

Imig said they signed up for the app in March. As a queer person, they said, they have felt stressed out by trying to fit into the expectations on Instagram and be someone they weren’t. Posting on Instagram and Snapchat was a tiresome task for them. They felt like they had to look as cool as possible and compete for likes.

Without any social pressure, Imig only adds close friends on BeReal—they prefer to have no more than 15. Imig is comfortable in their small circle, where all the members keep in touch with each other. “It’s just a second where I think about them in their lives. I’m like, wow, I love them so much,” they added. Read more of Sherry Qin’s story about being real on BeReal.

     
 

Q&A

 

Brew Questionnaire with Jen Flanz

Brew Questionnaire with Jen Flanz Broomvector

If you’ve ever laughed at a clip from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (and let’s be real, who hasn’t?), then you’re familiar with Jen Flanz’s work. She’s been with the Daily Show team for more than 20 years and has seen it all as an executive producer, writer, and showrunner. Flanz was also one of the key figures behind the show’s transition from noted Chicago deep-dish hater Jon Stewart to everyone’s favorite dimpled South African, Trevor Noah. Her personal trophy cabinet is also a little crowded from her tenure with the show—she’s won Primetime Emmy Awards, Peabody Awards, and a Television Academy Honors Award. Be sure to tune into The Daily Show this week as they broadcast from the battleground state of Georgia ahead of this year’s midterms as part of their “Votedemic 2022” coverage.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

My parents taught me to treat everyone as you’d want to be treated. It doesn’t mean that everyone will treat you that way in return, but you can at least feel good about how you’re making other people feel and how you’re presenting yourself to the world. You can sleep easy at night knowing you’re a decent person. And sleep is very important.

What’s the most embarrassing song you’ll admit to liking publicly?

I make myself cringe when I hear “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys, a childhood favorite and the song that made me crush on John Stamos even more. Basically, a few friends and I decided to dance to it in the Junior High Talent Show. Right before I went out on stage, I got my period for the first time—EVER. Filled with shame, I pulled myself together and did what may go down in history as the most humiliating thing I have ever done.

Now when I hear it, all I can think is, “Why was I so embarrassed about getting my period when I SHOULD have been mortified at our song choice?... not to mention our wardrobe…”

What fictional person do you wish were real?

Rosie from The Jetsons. I know she was a robot and not a person, but she cleaned up and seemed pretty nice. I would love it if she existed and also lived with me. And I know there are Roombas now, but she was an old-school robot: the kind without AI that could track and spy on me, so no risk of someone hacking her and watching me on live video all the time—she’d just clean.

What real person do you wish were fictional?

Hitler, for obvious reasons. What deranged mind came up with this character???

What invention do you wish you could take credit for?

There isn’t one thing I’d like to specifically take credit for. I’d love to have invented something that, if I were at a party and casually told someone about it, they would be fascinated by it. Like if I said that I invented the poop-bag holder for the end of a dog leash, or the eyelash curler, or the tiny plastic thing you can put in a to-go coffee cup that plugs the hole so it doesn’t spill…great conversation starter: “Did you meet that girl over by the crudités who invented Silly String?”

What always makes you laugh?

Obviously things that happen with your friends on vacation or things that my siblings bring up from our childhood, or boogers. But we watch a lot of news at work, and finding the funny in news footage is part of my every day. One of my favorite soundbites that makes me laugh, even now when I think about it, is one of Ben Carson realizing, upon being asked by a reporter about Donald Trump, that he left his luggage somewhere. My coworkers and I say it to each other so much that it got so exaggerated over the years. We do it every time we land in a new city and are at baggage claim.

If you were given a billboard in Times Square, what would you put on it?

Me waving, with the words “Have an awesome day to the person I love the most! You know who you are!” And then all the people who matter to me can just assume it’s them.

—Interview by Rohan Anthony

     
 
Revela
 

BREW'S BEST

 

Roku bet big on the Daniel Radcliffe-led biopic parody Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Will it pay off? [Marketing Brew]

Gain podcasting prowess: Here’s everything you need to know before you start your own podcast. [Sidekick]

Smart cities are no longer a thing of the future—they’re here now. And our pals at Emerging Tech Brew have an up-to-date guide on the new norms of urban life. [Emerging Tech Brew]

$treetValue: Does anyone know what “quiet quitting” actually means? We went to NYC’s Oktoberfest to find out. [Morning Brew]

Recession-proof your company. Even with mass layoffs being announced in multiple fields, the unlikely key to surviving a recession might be keeping your top talent. [HR Brew]

The best thing we read this week: The Orchid Thief, but make it about illegal carnivorous plants that eat rats, because it’s 2022. That’s kind of what this real-life houseplant horror story goes down as. You’ll be grateful for your boring snake plant by the end. [Wired]

Fresh dog food: Nom Nom’s meals are prepped + packaged precisely for your pup’s age, breed, weight, allergies, and protein preferences, helping them reach their full potential. Get 50% off a two-week trial.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.

 

SUNDAY FUNDAY

 

a puzzle piece, a chess piece, a rendering of a crossword

Mortgage rates, Harry Potter, and Liquid Death: This is our Sunday crossword that nods to the news of the week. Play it here.

         

Written by Rohan Anthony, Stassa Edwards, Sherry Qin, Ashwin Rodrigues, and Holly Van Leuven

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