What Is a “Bump” On the Internet?

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Bumping can be one of the most annoying practices on the internet. If you’ve ever seen someone spam “bump” on a post for seemingly no reason, here’s why, and what they’re trying to communicate.

Bring Up My Post

On the internet, a “bump” is a post or comment made by someone with the sole purpose of increasing the visibility of the primary message. It used to be a staple on message boards but is now commonly found in group threads, direct messages, and posts on social media platforms like Facebook and Reddit.

A less popular but still common colloquial definition for a bump is “dancing or moving to music.” So, for example, you might tell your friend that a song “makes you bump.” Alternatively, a bump can refer to the song itself, as in “this song is a bump!”

The Origin of Bumping

The practice of a “bump” has a pretty clear origin: message boards. These forum websites were extremely common in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with many communities forming around common interests. During this time, there was a forum for nearly everything: programming, vinyl records, parenting, and more. Newer members would often get frustrated with the lack of replies to their posts and “bump” the thread to increase visibility.

The first definition of “bump” on Urban Dictionary was made in January 2003, making it one of the earliest entries among slang terms we’ve covered. It reads, “in message board terms, to move a post to the top of the forum with a pointless reply.”

Eventually, bumping would make its way to Facebook groups, which were formerly sorted chronologically. Bumping was very common in community groups, where people could buy and sell goods to each other. However, changes to Facebook’s algorithm have neutralized the ability of bumps to make posts more noticeable.

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Threads and Sorting

One of the biggest reasons why “bumps” exist is because of the way forums were organized in the early 2000s.

Historically, most message boards split discussion topics into threads made up of posts from various users. By default, forums were sorted by threads with the newest posts. During these early days, users could get their threads to the top of the forum by adding a bump. Members did this to highlight their own discussions, revive old or dead threads, and push people to respond to their questions.

Bump posts weren’t necessarily “bump” and nothing else. Many were pointless replies, uninteresting news, or repeating points made earlier in the thread. Some forum moderators were against the practice of bumping. Pointless bumping was against the rules and a potentially bannable offense in many communities.

However, chronological sorting has largely disappeared. Instead, social media platforms now use algorithmic formulas based on user engagement and content to determine your social feed or the order of a group’s posts. Other platforms like Reddit use a “karma” system that allows users to boost high-quality content.

Because of these changes, bumping posts largely doesn’t work anymore — although people continue to do it. For example, if you’ve ever scrolled through a buy-and-sell-focused group on Facebook, you might notice a few sales listings with dozens of bumps but no buyers.

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Hey, Reply to Me

However, “bump” has taken on a new life in a messaging-focused age. Instead of appearing on message boards and Facebook Marketplace, you can find it in private messages and group conversations between friends and family.

In this usage, “bump” is synonymous with “reminder.” For example, if your friend sent you a question a few days ago and you haven’t responded, they might message you with “bump.” This can also pop up in group threads. For example, if one of your friends is leading a trip with a big group, they might “bump” your flight information a few days before the trip.

You can also use this even when there’s no previous message to bump. For example, if you and your friend had an in-person conversation where he agreed to send you some documents, you can message him “bump on those documents” as a casual reminder.

Bumping Label

If you’re thinking about bumping your post on a social network like Facebook, we recommend against it. Not only is bumping useless because of most websites’ default sorting systems, but it can also come across as annoying and needy to many users. Some users might avoid posts with a ton of bumps and pointless comments.

Bumping your friend about an invitation to an event or some documents they need to fill out is perfectly acceptable. However, you should probably avoid using this in your professional e-mails since some people find messages like “Bumping this up to the top of your inbox” irritating. Instead, you can use the phrases like “I’d like to follow up on this” or “I just wanted to check in,” which mean the same thing.

Are you interested in some other slang terms that came from message boards? Then check out our pieces on OP, LTTP, and ITT to learn about this part of internet history.

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