What is it About BBM?
After months of teasing and waiting, Blackberry finally made their BBM app available to the rest of the world that had graduated from their handheld Berries.
I was one of the first in line. I couldn’t wait to get back my status updates, profile pic, Pings and PIN. After a bunch of clicks and opt-ins, I had it back – BBM was on my Android.
It was all there, my new PIN, scan-able code, groups, everything just the way I remembered it, with some updated design. To get started, I invited a few friends and started a few conversations. Just like that, I was reconnecting with old friends and carrying on conversations that would ebb and flow throughout the day. In the next few hours I saw post after post pop up on my Facebook feed. Clever quips like: “2000 called – they want their BBM back”, or biting commentary like: “BBM? I’m so over it!”.
That got me wondering what it is that I love about my old messaging system so much, so I tweeted about it. Sure enough, I wasn’t the only one. Lots of people felt the same way – they weren’t just happy that BBM was back, they are legitimately fired up. Ever since then I’ve been tracking the hashtag #BBM and it seems to be the most polarizing thing on the internet right now.
Tweets about “#bbm”
More than anything, what those of us who are pumped about BBM coming back have in common is that we can’t put our fingers on exactly why we love it. We know that it works very quickly, the interface is solid, and the features provide utility, but so do WhatsApp, iMessage and WeChat. There isn’t even the huge number of people to connect with on there anymore. So what is it?
The best that I can explain it is: I feel like I’m always in conversation with people on BBM.
With every other message delivery system I feel like I’m starting and ending conversations all the time. There’s something different here. Whenever I open my BBM I feel like I’m looking at a list of ongoing interactions that I can jump into and out of any time without ever having to cut someone off or get someone’s attention. BBM provides the kind of open and fluid communication that no other channel ever has.
In my professional life, I pride myself on my ability to break creative and complex work down into the factors that cause people to act or react. Advertising creative and social media messaging appear to be pure art; unquantifiable pieces that are put out into the world to create a reaction that may or may not come. I believe that it all can be quantified, and have developed systems to turn something as simple as a link on page into hard numerical figures.
What I can’t figure out is what’s got the few of us who love our Blackberry Messenger apps so fixated on it. What UX design creates the intangible connection between people that breaks down social convention for us and encourages ongoing conversation? What is it about the status updates that make them relevant when our Facebook feeds and Twitter streams are jammed with far more media-rich content?
Maybe we’re just reminded of a time when instant messaging on our devices was a new and novel thing, when we were in our early 20s and had few or no social barriers to constrict us. If that’s so, then the connection that BBM created was so strong that it has endured a decade of technology advancements and attachments that we’ve developed with other, newer options.
Or perhaps there’s something remarkably subtle about Blackberry’s interface that makes people feel at ease and connected, the way no other app can.
Whatever the cause – I haven’t felt better about downloading a new application onto my phone as long as I have had a smartphone.