Just when you thought you couldn’t squeeze one more social sharing app onto your smartphone, along comes Beme. The brainchild of filmmaker Casey Neistat, Beme is the latest in a long line of video sharing apps to hit the social media hungry market. But Beme is more than a little different from its fellows. Where apps like Snapchat and Periscope are designed to put you into the picture, Neistat’s app wants to take you out of the frame and put you back into the moment. Beme encourages users to see with their eyes, and not through their smartphone’s viewfinder, bringing a kind of cinema verite to the world of video sharing apps.
The concept behind Beme is simple, bucking the trend of the curated self. As Neistat puts it in the app’s video advert, “Social media is supposed to be a digital or virtual version of who we are as people. Instead, it’s a highly sculpted, calculated, calibrated version of who we are, told through filters that make our eyes bluer and carefully selected images to portray a version of who we are that doesn’t really resemble the reality of things.” Beme is designed to change all of that, forcing people to capture real moments in time by eliminating the ability to edit or artificially craft the video content they are sharing. Authenticity is the watch word, and Neistat’s app makes it all but impossible to share anything other than the real, unexpurgated, truth of a moment.
Beme in Action
Beme differs from similar video sharing apps in more than just concept. It not only discourages users from angling for that perfect selfie or video clip, it eliminates the ability to do so. Neistat and co-founder Matt Hackett (formerly of Tumblr fame) have designed the app in such a way as to make the smartphone’s viewfinder inaccessible while shooting any video. Beme uses a smartphone’s proximity sensor as a trigger, so in order to film something users have to hold their phone up against something solid and opaque. For example, if you want to film something while you are walking down the high street you need to hold your smartphone against your chest. This activates the camera, and a four second video clip is captured. If you want to take a video selfie, you hold your smartphone against a wall to trigger the app. With Beme, there is no real way to check the framing or prepare the shot. Moreover, there is no option to edit, or even preview, the video before it is posted to friends and followers.
But Beme reinforces the immediacy of the moment even further. Friends and followers can only view the content you send them once, after which it self-deletes. If someone wants to like what they see, they can send a quick video selfie in return. There are no ‘like’ buttons, no heart icons, and no way to reply directly to the sender within the app. A moment is captured, shared, and then disappears into the ether. Much like real life. For Neistat and Hackett, Beme is a way to put people back into the moment, to take their eyes away from their smartphones and force them to engage with the world around them, and to share that moment of engagement with the online world.
It must be said, Beme brings a new vision to the world of video sharing apps. Still, it faces some stiff competition from popular apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Yahoo’s recently lauched LiveText app. Beme is undeniably unique, but the question remains “Is this the type of app that the public is going to flock to?”. Breaking away from the ‘curated self’ is a laudable ambition, but it is one that not everyone will be prepared to embrace. After all, part of the appeal of social media is having some control of your personal image. True, many people take that control to unhealthy extremes. But we all like to present ourselves and our lives as, if not something more than the reality, at least the best possible version of that reality. Living in the moment is certainly admirable, but it may be a hard sell to convince people that any or all of those moments should be shared with the world at large.