Almost every active college student has a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest account. But the fastest growing app on college campuses this year is Yik Yak.
Yik Yak was created as an anonymous way to discuss events, issues and general happenings in the area, particularly in college campuses. Students have the ability to let everyone on campus know about events, parties and anything happening on campus. On Yik Yak, users can post anonymous comments, which other users can then “upvote” or “downvote” based on their popularity. Users can only see other “Yaks” posted by people within a 10-mile radius. Yaks can also be commented on, turning the posts into conversation threads. Every post or comment is completely anonymous, with no photos or avatars to distinguish users.
For some campuses, the app is a true resource to find out what is going on in the area, and share random thoughts with other students. Because of the geo-targeted features of the app, the feed is always relevant and timely. Random comments are hilarious, and the app is truly addicting….
But for many schools nationwide, Yik Yak has become an open forum for racist and bashful comments which many identify as cyberbullying. On my campus, it is often used to pit each sorority and sports team against each other and sometimes degrade the dance or cheer teams. But while Yakkers are anonymous, many call out other students by name for the whole campus to see. Whether they are bragging about last weekend’s hookup, or shaming someone for getting too drunk, or worse.
Many schools also have dedicated Twitter accounts to tweet their school’s best Yaks. While the official YikYak Twitter for that school filters out the nasty comments, other unofficial accounts for “College Confessions” don’t hesitate to tweet the most controversial yaks, which in turn increases the reach of those comments to other social media platforms.
Some schools have taken measures to “ban” access to Yik Yak on campus, while others assure the app is here to stay. In the past couple weeks, the debate has swept the nation . Does banning the app send a message to the students that the school is committed to fostering a welcoming environment on campus and taking a strong stance against bullying? Are those measures going against students right to free speech? Or are they simply ineffective because banning access to the app on the campus wifi doesn’t prevent anyone from using it on their personal cellular network?
Why turn something that is supposed to inform all students about their overall entertainment into a site where you make fun of each others’ flaws and criticize the whole student body? College is supposed to be a great experience for everyone. The next time you tweet or “raise your Yakkarma”, think twice and be mindful of how quickly word spreads.