I tried using Lemon8, TikTok's new buzzy sister app, to see if it would entertain me as much as TikTok. It didn't come close.
Lemon8 was billed as TikTok's buzzy new sister app when it was launched in February by ByteDance.
It's been described as "Pinterest meets Instagram" for its focus on aesthetically pleasing images.
The app promises "fresh discoveries everyday," but I simply didn't see the point.
When news and rumors about the possibility of a TikTok ban in the US began to spread earlier this year, interest in Lemon8, a photosharing app from TikTok's parent company ByteDance, suddenly spiked.
ByteDance quietly launched Lemon8 in the US in February. It was briefly in the top 10 free apps on Apple's App Store around its launch at the end of March and was still in the top 50 by mid-April.
With its tagline, "fresh discoveries everyday," the app promises users the chance to find recommendations and ideas related to their favorite topics, such as travel and food, by scrolling through carefully curated slideshows made by its creators. With its heavy emphasis on photos, Lemon8 is often described as a TikTok sister app that functions as "Instagram meets Pinterest."
The early success of Lemon8 had some suggesting it might become the next big thing, following the hugely viral launches of other buzzy social media apps like BeReal.
I decided to make an account and explore the app, to see if it's really as promising as many have described it to be.
I set up a Lemon8 account, hoping to find content related to my interests.
When I made my account on Lemon8, the app first asked me to enter some basic information about myself, including my date of birth and pronouns, before asking me to select some of my "interests" based on a list of categories.
My first thought was that some of the categories were quite similar (e.g. makeup and skincare) which suggested to me that the content I'd be seeing on Lemon8 would be more narrow in focus than TikTok.
Once I selected my options, the app took me to a "For You," page, which recommends content based on my interests. Like TikTok, the app adjusts its recommendations based on the posts you interact with, according to its description on the Apple App Store.
When I first logged on, I saw an array of posts that all looked very similar. There were a lot of "Get Ready With Me" slideshows and "room inspiration posts," and I definitely didn't feel I was accessing the same variety of content I get on TikTok, even after a week of using the app.
That said, I wonder whether it's still a bit too new — TikTok primarily started off as a dancing and lip-syncing app but now has creators making videos across any and every genre. Perhaps it will take some time for Lemon8 creators to diversify and find their niches.
I thought the Lemon8 "For You" page had an extremely cute vibe.
Despite previously complaining about the endless room inspiration posts on the Lemon8 "For You" page, I do have to say they were all very pleasant to look at, even if they were a bit too copious.
Most posts I saw on Lemon8 were extremely aesthetically-driven, as creators used labels, stickers, and effects to make their photos as visually stimulating as possible.
The aesthetic vibes were definitely reminiscent of Pinterest to me, while the way creators can personalize their images and put them together in a slideshow format was more similar to Instagram.
It did differ from Instagram in at least one way, though — while Lemon8 is paying creators to post content, according to a report from Insider's Marta Biino, its "For You" page recommended me content by a refreshing number of seemingly ordinary people, instead of the continual sponsored content from big influencers that many have called inauthentic and have criticized Instagram for.
From exploring my "For You" page over a few days, I concluded that Lemon8 is essentially a platform for blogging in a visual way. Creators share images of locations on their travel bucket lists or pictures to aid their description of their favorite brownie recipes, to produce highly personalized posts that other people will hopefully find and appreciate.
I could definitely understand why it might appeal to people who love curating content as a way to share about their lives.
I hesitantly decided to make some posts on Lemon8 because it seemed like the thing to do on the app.
I'll admit it: I hate making posts on social media.
I can very rarely be bothered to put together a post of my holiday photos for Instagram, and I never post on TikTok, despite using the app every day, because I personally don't love the idea of putting my life out there in public like that.
All this to say, I'm definitely more of a consumer than a creator when it comes to my social media use.
However, after a few days on Lemon8, I found that scrolling through the "For You" page or looking through popular hashtags didn't keep me entertained for very long, largely due to the repetitive nature of posts that I mentioned earlier.
It seemed to me like all the fun on Lemon8 was happening in the curation process. I wanted to attempt to make some cute and aesthetic slideshows to see if my efforts could match up to the polished posts I was seeing on my feed.
Inspired by the mood of other posts I saw on the app, I made two Lemon8 posts over the week: a slideshow of pictures taken on my recent trip to Dublin, Ireland, and a slideshow representing a list of bucket list activities I was able to tick off before my 23rd birthday.
I found making posts on Lemon8 time-consuming and somewhat tedious.
One really unique thing about Lemon8 in my experience using it is the sheer amount of customization you can do on your posts.
When I selected images I wanted to use for my slideshows, I found a large number of filters, effects, stickers, and text templates that I could choose from to lay over them, with far more options than you'd get on Instagram.
The app's description markets this as a huge bonus, as it means you don't have to download a secondary app for editing your posts before uploading them. But for me, the vast number of options was more of a hindrance than a help, as I quickly felt overwhelmed by all the possibilities. I found myself putting lots of stickers and labels on to make use of them, before deciding it was too much and deleting them.
I'd often then go back on myself and decide the post now looked too plain, adding some stickers back on, proceeding to go back and forth with my sense of artistic taste about what to do next.
By the time I'd edited just one image for each of my slideshow posts, I was exhausted and lost a significant amount of interest in curating them to perfection. The process of using the text templates and filters was quite fiddly and definitely required more of a passion for photo editing than I had within me.
It didn't feel like Lemon8 was the best place for interacting with other creators.
The app encouraged me to put hashtags under my posts to increase the chances of other people seeing them when they searched for the relevant tags.
After exploring the tags myself, I noticed that there wasn't a huge amount of interaction going on between creators. Aside from being able to comment on, like, or save another creator's post, there were no other ways to start conversations.
While apps like Instagram have private messaging functions, and TikTok has its distinct "stitch" and "duet" functions which allow creators to react to other people's posts in a video of their own, the Lemon8 space felt very quiet, even after I joined in by making some posts.
Overall I think Lemon8 has some perks but it just wasn't my cup of tea.
Although Lemon8 emerged amid fears about the potential ban of TikTok, it definitely isn't a replacement for it and has a completely different feel altogether.
The app is certainly interesting, and if I were a big fan of Pinterest or of making my own curated content, I would probably have enjoyed it more.
However, as more of a TikTok-lover who enjoys being able to watch content without the pressure to create any, I don't think Lemon8 was a great fit for me.
And as far as "social" media apps go, I do think it has a long way to go before it's able to allow creators to build communities or committed follower bases, due to the current lack of in-depth interaction that's available.
Lemon8 certainly doesn't seem to be taking on the widespread appeal of the likes of BeReal, another photo-sharing app that blew up in 2022 — while all my friends downloaded BeReal that year and post on it daily without fail to this day, no one in my friendship circle has downloaded Lemon8, particularly because of the amount of effort they've heard it takes to maintain an account.
The appeal of Lemon8 already seems to be fading on a wider scale too.
Although Lemon8 was dubbed the next big thing by some social media users, buzz around the app appears to have already died down in the months since it launched.
Insider reported that Lemon8 was in the top 50 on Apple's top free apps list in mid-April, but it's now no longer on the list, which shows the top 100 apps on the store.
Five creators being paid to post on Lemon8 told Insider's Marta Biino that crafting content for Lemon8 was significantly more time-consuming and required more effort than posting on other social media platforms. Two of them said they weren't sure creating this content was worth their time, while three others said they had high hopes for the platform to grow.
For the time being though, it seems that Lemon8's fate is moving in a decidedly different direction from BeReal, and even more so from its hugely popular sister product, currently Apple's 4th most-popular free app, TikTok.
As for me, after a week, I felt underwhelmed and unexcited by what Lemon8 offered me, and have turned my attention back to TikTok instead.
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.
Read the original article on Insider