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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell students launch new social-networking app

Graphic by Andy Pavey
Graphic by Andy Pavey

By Wini Austin

A new social networking app called “Bump” is coming to Grinnell this week. James Lim ’22, Hunain Ali ’21, Solly Maya ’22 and Jacob Gerber ’21 are trying to reshape campus culture with their new app, which they call a “passion and interest-based network.” It’s a platform they hope will foster connections across the community and make it easier for students to find people who share their interests.

Since the beginning of November, Grinnell students have noticed the trio’s elusive promotional campaign: posters simply reading “Bump” plastered around campus with fine print at the bottom hinting that a “new age” is coming to Grinnell.

In the past week, the posters were replaced by new ones depicting screenshots of a message chat, clarifying that Bump is a form of social media, but not expanding much on its purpose.

Bump, which went live on Thursday, Nov. 21 is essentially a messaging platform composed of chat groups organized by categories of activities common to student interests, such as sports, games, art-making, music and a slew of others.

Students interested in starting up or participating in an activity can follow and chat in any group on the app. When someone messages a group, anyone at Grinnell following the group can chat back. Ideally, the platform will be used to encourage people to engage in their favorite activities off the app and get to know new like-minded people at the same time.

At Grinnell, there is a flurry of get-to-know-each-other activity during students’ first year—especially first semester—when it’s not that weird to sit down at a random table in D-Hall and acquaint yourself with a new friend group. But as semesters go by, the opportunities for these serendipitous introductions tend to subside. This is one of the issues Bump’s creators want to address.

“Beyond NSO and first year, it’s really hard to just sit at someone else’s lunch table and say ‘What’s your name, what do you like to do?’” said Lim. He and the other creators believe that culture is just as important now as it was when they arrived. Lim continued, “We live on such a small campus, we’re surrounded by like-minded people, there’s like 1,700 students here that all have similar passions and ambitions. … It’s a common tendency to group people into cliques, sports teams … but there’s so much more to people than that.”

Bump is also intended to encourage more spontaneous and action-oriented connection than other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. 

“When you have that 20-minute break are you really going to go around and ask, ‘Hey are you trying to play ping pong?’ You just go on your phone and browse through Instagram. We felt there wasn’t a sense of connection, even though we’re browsing through people’s lives,” said Ali.

As Maya puts it, the app is intended to make real-life social connection easier. “This is going to be the social media to get you off social media,” he said.

It’s also meant to make meeting up with people more efficient and spontaneous. Maya said, “You should be able to spend that hour-long study break in the most fulfilling way possible, given that you live on a campus with almost 2,000 other interesting people, who, of those people, there’s probably someone who’s down to do exactly what you want to do at any given moment.”

Ali, Maya and Lim also envision Bump being used to publicize leftover catering food and campus events, like study breaks and movie showings. To promote the app, they have approached Tutorial professors, attended RLC meetings, talked to CAs and are exploring other ways to encourage students to download and use it. It is available on both the IOS and Android app stores under the name “Bump Grinnell.”

“We realized we needed to create the infrastructure to advance the culture. This is just a means to create a better culture at this place,” said Maya.

Now, it’s up to the rest of Grinnell to decide whether their grand vision will be realized.

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