Over the last few months, a new application has been emerging on college campuses all over the country. Yik Yak, which was started in 2013 by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington from Furman University, has grown in popularity exponentially since the start of this school year. As a mixture of university confession pages and Twitter, users can post anonymously in a Twitter-like feed. You can create and view posts within a one and a half mile radius depending on how many other users are nearby.
So why might this app be an issue on college campuses? Wasn’t there something like this for school confession pages on Facebook just a couple years ago? Unlike college confessions pages, Yik Yak is not monitored by anyone. Posts are upvoted or downvoted, and the only time that a post is removed is when it reaches a rating of negative five. On confession pages, people can message the administrator of the page to request for a post to be removed. You cannot request a post to be removed from Yik Yak.
This has led to many personal attacks on individuals, some of them good friends of mine, and a bad image for students and organizations on campus. There is also a presence of symbolic violence in posts condoning slut shaming, bashing of groups on campus and even sexual assault.
One post states, “I’ve been groped 5 times here at the [Kappa Sigma house].” Two comments on the post stated: “Get used to college bitch” and “Don’t act like you don’t like the attention.” Not only are these comments available for anybody to see, they also received upvotes which implies there are people on or near our campus that do not think sexual assault is a problem. As a member of Greek Life and as a student here at Pacific, this concerns me for many reasons. First, this means that there are people on campus who think harassment and assault are appropriate. Second, it has been implied through the posts that there are members of Greek Life who are in support of this type of behavior.
In Yik Yak’s short lifespan, concerns have been voiced on other campuses. Some steps have been taken to try and limit the dangers of the application. Many schools and school districts have banned the application on their campuses. On Oct. 21, a bomb threat was posted to Yik Yak at Pennsylvania State University.
Although the student who created the post was caught and arrested, it took a lot of time and effort from the university and police, more so than would have been required for any other social media application. Posted at 9:15a.m., it took 12 hours for police to obtain the information of where the “Yak” was posted and who made the threat.
When there is a threat of violence towards a school, 12 hours is too long of a time period for the suspect to be located. In April 2014, an update was pushed to the application that blocks all posts if you are within the vicinity of a middle or high school. If you are in these areas, you will see a message displaying: “This app is intended for mature college students.”
All in all, Yik Yak can be very dangerous. While I do think that it is a good idea in concept, the way the app is being used has been detrimental.
Although I want something to be done about this application, unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done. It will be interesting to see how this application develops over time.