Being a curious person, I downloaded the app “Yik Yak” after overhearing somebody talk about using it in one of my classes. At first, it seemed like a safe, useful space for students to ask questions and advice of fellow students and people around them. This eliminated the humiliation factor that is all too common with shy students. It was helpful and had some cute jokes or sayings at first, but it soon turned into a source of bullying, bigotry and overall hatred on campus.
For those of you who may not know, “Yik Yak” is an app that lets 500 people in your general area communicate with you anonymously. It works sort of in a Twitter-like style. You can up-vote or down-vote your favorite posts called “Yaks” and even pick a username if you so choose. The app does not allow name-calling or foul language, and deletes posts that are deemed to be unnecessary or inappropriate. It is not perfect however, and a lot of disturbing things slip through the cracks.
There are lots of posts about where to meet up for sex, drugs, and partying. The app also seems to encourage bullying, racism, sexism and anti-equal rights posts by allowing people to hide anonymously. Although the app claims to filter out language, profanity and giving out personal information, people and students still seem to find a way around it to make fun of someone. High target areas include the dorms, the dining halls and the SMC.
What disappoints me even more about it is that when an awful post is displayed it gets lots of support through up-votes, suggesting that many kids on campus take pleasure in mocking or degrading minorities or bullying innocent strangers. Not to mention the fact that it highlights students participating in illegal activity a lot of the time. A few RA’s have taken initiative and are now following it closely enough to be able to stop things from getting out of hand when a room number or specific dorm is mentioned in these ways, but I wonder if it is enough.
It seems that as soon as people get behind a keyboard or screen, they feel the need to express their hatred and opinions to the world without thinking of who might be receiving it on the other end. I encourage students to think before they start posting things in this way. We all got talked to about bullying at some point in our academic careers and how to prevent it; did all of that get thrown out the window because now you are not attaching your name to it? Nobody knows what someone else may be going through and putting him or her down, or bullying him or her into submission, is not the way to be using this new technology.
I am not against “Yik Yak” at all. I just believe that students should be using it differently than they are currently. If the app can go back to being funny jokes and song lyrics every day, I will happily return to using it. Until then, I plan on deleting it from my app library.