The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Banned from Bump Grinnell

This week, after an extremely-ominous postering campaign around campus, student entrepreneurs launched “Bump Grinnell” (stylized BUMP) – an app with lofty ambitions, to say the least. Even the all-caps name makes it sound like the developers are shouting at you every time you see it: “HEY, YOU! BUMP!”

Just take a look at Bump Grinnell’s description on the App Store: “A new age is upon us, Grinnell … BUMP is simply a platform … through which a new age of communication and engagement at Grinnell College can be made possible … BUMP is a movement, not an app.” Well, which is it?! Is it a platform, or an app, or a movement? You can tell the developers have watched many a Barack Obama speech or a Steve Jobs keynote in their time. Unfortunately, I bet they don’t even own a single black turtleneck. A shame.

Aspirations of grandeur can be great if they’re warranted. But it’s hard to get it right. I wanted to see whether or not the Bump team is heading in the right direction. Naturally, any social media – oops, sorry, “social medium,” according to the developers – is dependent on the userbase. That’s why, in terms of how effective Bump is at generating community and friendship and rainbows, it’s too soon to tell.

Sign-up is simple: Simply enter your .edu email address, a photo, a username (a la Twitter) and a tasteful description letting others know a little about yourself. Then, you’re in.

But I didn’t want to be myself. I’ve never wanted to be myself. I wanted to think different.

A big “plus” for Bump out of the gate: You can be anyone. Despite the fact that you’re required to enter your Grinnell username at sign-up, there are somehow no measures in place to ensure you are actually that person – no sign-up confirmation sent to your email, no carrier pigeon sent to your doorstep – nothing. I could enter the e-mail address of a random Grinnell student – or administrator, for that matter – and impersonate them without repercussions.

In other words, I’m happy to announce that Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington has joined the chat.

I was pleasantly surprised by Bump’s visual design: It’s very, uh, clean.

That’s pretty much it. Devoid of all character and personality, the app is a blank canvas comprised of a rambling grid of squares that list out each group, a blue-and-white color scheme and no support for Apple’s Dark Mode setting.

But it’s early: this is what I must keep reminding myself about Bump. Things change. People change (like how I changed into President Kington).

What’s more important than it looks, perhaps, is how it feels. And the app does run relatively well. One upside of the bland design is that it feels a lot like a standard Apple app. Animation is smooth, and there’s little to no lag.

Obviously, the social experience is at the core of Bump. On the home page (that wonderful procession of identical white squares I mentioned earlier) you’ll find a list of curated groups. You can’t start your own, much to my dismay (I planned to start a group called “Rager at Nollen House.” It’s probably good they didn’t allow that).

Bump is comprised mainly of disappearing live chatrooms. When a message is sent in Bump Grinnell, it stays around for two minutes, and then vanishes forever. It would seem that this would make it difficult to plan events or get-togethers, like Bump is intended to do … and that’s probably correct. Even in groups like “Chat Union,” which aren’t specifically designed to get people together in real life, it’s hard to fathom how one could have a well-constructed, respectful conversation when other users’ messages disappear in a heartbeat.

When you can’t see anything beyond the last two minutes, it’s hard to feel like you’re in the loop, and at present, conversations quickly devolve into exchanges of emoji and nothing more. Then people get bored, and you’re left all alone wondering what the hell just happened, fervently tapping the “call me” emoji positioned at the bottom left of the screen and thinking about how you need to get off Bump and make some real friends.

Scenes from Bump Grinnell’s launch day.

I think the app doesn’t know what it wants to be. I knew this was a problem the second I saw the developers calling Bump “a movement” instead of an app. (That’s Silicon Valley lingo for “please download our app, it’s different from Facebook, I swear”) But Bump borrows a lot – from Facebook, chiefly, but also from very different platforms like YikYak. It wants to be spontaneous and orderly, “a movement” and a social media platform, interpersonal and anonymous. I’m not so convinced that’s possible, or feasible, or even smart.

Bump has solid foundations, and it’s a testament to the ingenuity of Grinnell students. But I think that in order to make it an integral part of the Grinnell experience, the developers need to take a stand on what it is, and what it is not. Will Bump destroy Facebook? Will it finally make email lists defunct? This I am confident about: No.

During dinner at Food House last night, we talked about email lists. They’re a necessary evil: a problem Bump, in part, was designed to solve. Someone thinking of starting a poetry group said they wanted to go old-school: set up a phone number and make people call it to get meeting information instead of getting emails every week.

We all laughed, but I think they were on the right track. I think the answer to our communication woes is not a disjointed, disconnected platform with a short attention span, like Bump, or the myriad of email lists you sign up for during Organization Fairs and regret for four years, or Facebook groups that do nothing but make you angry. The answer is a system where we are intentional, not impulsive, in pursuing our interests – a system that rewards commitment and promotes genuine connection and hard work.

Just three hours after I installed Bump, I was logged out.  I couldn’t get back in. I’d been banned. They probably figured out I wasn’t President Kington. I wondered how. I was being so sneaky. I’d done nothing more than talk about my love of dance. Maybe I called one person an idiot. I stared at the screen. I deleted Bump Grinnell.

Shit, I thought. Now I really hope this app doesn’t become popular.

FOR MORE: Check out the S&B’s more respectful coverage of the Bump Grinnell team, written by Wini Austin.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (1)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    John ClaytonNov 25, 2019 at 12:10 am

    I saw the headline BANNED FROM BUMP GRINNELL and thought it had to do with gun bump stocks being banned in Grinnell, which I was going to be stunned in that I never thought the City Council would take such an action. Opps, I was totally going down the wrong avenue. Definitely, I am not into BUMP, it is beyond.