Where does BMS come from?
BMS, or break my scale, begins in the 2010s as a show of encouragement and appreciation on social media, particularly the photo-based platform Instagram. It is a figure of speech that says the person in the photo has broken some metaphorical rating scale by being so beautiful that they have surpassed the highest possible ranking (e.g., 13/10 or 110%). Some users also include BMS on their own photos as a self-assured way to solicit compliments. Over time, BMS moved away from a strict reference to a numerical scale to a generic compliment in the tone of a wolf whistle.
Google searches containing BMS and Instagram appeared in mid-2012, two years after Instagram launched on the Apple App Store. News articles about tween culture and social media began referencing the abbreviation at this time, often noting the hashtag trend "#BMS" as a self-esteem issue for young adults online. Some young users would post pictures hoping for over-the-top supportive comments such as BMS, and then become discouraged when those comments never came.
Searches then spiked in summer 2013 and summer 2014, likely coinciding with uploads of bathing suit and vacation photos. Since then, searches for and use of "#BMS" to mean break my scale have significantly declined. It is possible that emoji have taken the place of BMS sentiments on social media.
Who uses BMS?
During the height of the acronym's popularity, BMS was mostly used by young women and men on social media, sometimes in the form of rate:BMS.
As noted, BMS has largely fallen out of use, with Instagram posts including "#BMS" being more likely to tag a brand, business, or school with the initials BMS (e.g., Bristol Motor Speedway or Barberton Middle School). Rating photos on a scale is still popular on some social-media accounts (e.g., WeRateDogs awarding dog pictures a 12/10 for cuteness), though the BMS acronym is not common in replies to these accounts.
Around the same time as the hashtag "#BMS" was gaining popularity in the early 2010s, a TV show about college freshmen, Blue Mountain State, was also airing. As viewers watched live and streamed reruns for a few years, the hashtag "#BMS" served as a hub for online conversations about the show on social media.
4th WCW @jenyqtpi she so cute #bms #10 #ratebms #damn #wooooo #wcw
ppaappii.chulo, Instagram, January, 2014
How about you? Follow me @springbreakgirls_sbg 😘😍 #blonde #brunette #bluejeans #sexygirls #sexy #eyes #lipstick #makeup #gorgeous #contacts #croptop #shirt #nails #fitgirl #pants #bms #slay #wow #prettygirls #loveislove
springbreakgirls_sbg, Instagram, March, 2018
In this case, a girl may trade a “like” — meaning, a friend will like her photo — in exchange for another tidbit of honesty: a 1-10 rating, of how much she likes you, your best physical feature, and a numerical scale that answers the question of “are we friends?” and many others. Girls hope for a “BMS,” or break my scale, the ultimate show of affection.
Rachel Simmons, Time, November, 2014