Yik Yak app shows repercussions of student anonymity
October 23, 2015
In 2013, a new social media application was launched that allowed people to post updates anonymously and see other's posts based on location. This app was called Yik Yak, and almost it almost instantly become popular, especially in university towns.
Yik Yak is a platform for students to say how they really feel without fear of judgment, to connect with fellow students over classes, common interests, and everything else. And it is also a new and productive way for information to fl ow through an entire university population. In theory, Yik Yak could be a new and exciting platform in which students can distribute and consume ideas and news in a convenient way that brings together an entire campus.
In practice, however, Yik Yak is not the productive digital message board that one would hope. Instead, one looks at the things that are posted and can't help but wonder why someone would post such a thing. Looking at a university's Yik Yak, one will fi nd rude and passive aggressive comments about roommates and classmates, individuals looking for anonymous hookups, and rumors that seem to run rampant. Yik Yak may be unique because of the anonymity, but at the same time, that is the one thing that seems to be leading the app down a path of harassment and ill will.
And when it comes to this kind of behavior on Yik Yak, UW-River Falls is no different. A recent example of this happened a few weeks ago when a member of the Student Feminist Organization posted information about their upcoming meeting on Yik Yak. Someone then commented back with a blatant threat, saying that they would only come to the meeting with a violent weapon. Because it was an anonymous threat, the ability to tell whether or not this threat was legitimate was almost impossible. One comment from an individual hiding behind the promise of total anonymity managed to bring fear to an entire student organization that was just trying to get the word out about their upcoming meeting.
When students come to campus to tour, they are just a touch away from seeing the kind of posts that are produced regularly on our university's Yik Yak, which can really turn off a potential student, even if they were impressed by the university as a whole. Freedom of speech is so important, but it is also important for us to look at ourselves and ask if this is really how we want to be seen. At the end of the day, college is supposed to be a place of learning and fi nding ourselves, not a place to blindly stab at each other, put each other down and not have to face the wounds that we have created through our harsh words. Yik Yak could be a wonderful thing, but it is up to us to make it something that in the end doesn't hurt our university and the people who call this place their temporary home.