We are three months into 2015, and pretty much every college student is all too familiar with the peering eyes of Yik Yak. The app can somewhat be considered a phenomenon, which began about a year ago. It rapidly took over Woodward Academy in Atlanta in March 2014, with students constantly “yakking” throughout the day — to the point that the school announced automatic detention for those found using the app. This appears to be a hefty punishment for a deceptively harmless app, but several students used its inconspicuousness for inimical acts of direct cyber bullying, racial slurs and offensive “jokes.”
Yik Yak can essentially be boiled down to an anonymous Twitter — its anonymity is basically the reason for its exorbitant popularity. Students take to the app to share embarrassing occurrences of their day, discuss classes and even repost Tumblr jokes. Basically, students post things they wouldn’t put up on social media if their name was attached to the post.
I’m willing to admit I was a bit caught up with the app myself, but only because I don’t own a Twitter account. Exhibit A, one of my own posts to Yik Yak: “The CITGO sign is like the North Star for BU students who’ve wandered too far.” Now this isn’t something I would mind tweeting, but, then again, it isn’t something my friend back at the University of Texas in Dallas would understand. Yik Yak narrows down the audience of your post to people within a 1.5-mile radius, which is exactly why the app works. It creates a small, undisclosed community where people don’t feel judged and where people understand inside jokes.
It’s always enjoyable to have a little laugh at or nod your head in agreement with a relatable post on Yik Yak, but one must draw a line between things that can be said in jest and things that are outrageously rude. Some Yaks have even hinted at mass violence — “I’m gonna [gun emoji] the school at 12:15 p.m. today,” one Yak stated, according to The New York Times on March 8. Clearly, while many users appreciate the privacy, some misuse it to the extent that schools had to be on lockdown due to anonymous school shooting threats. Such mindless posts probably wouldn’t have been found on the app had its veil of namelessness not existed. Then again, without it, the app would’ve been a carbon copy of Twitter and therefore rendered impractical.
Yik Yak has gained controversy due to reports of cyber bullying as well. With an app that functions like Yik Yak does, this should’ve been no surprise. The anonymity allows for the slightly vicious sides of human beings to surface. There is no threat of being discovered, and this just gives students the push to say something scandalous. It gives bullies the opportunity to hurt their target with words while still maintaining their own integrity in society.
In essence, Yik Yak is all fun and games until it gets out of hand. Now, is this reducing the app’s popularity? Not even a little bit. Although iTunes removed the app from its U.S. charts, it still remained No. 19 in the “Social” category in the UK as of March 11. Its popularity is, in many ways, dependent on herd mentality — you hear about it from your friends and classmates, and this forces you to get the app due to the fear of missing out. College students use the app for all sorts of intents and purposes, and the controversy linked to the app in no way deters users from downloading Yik Yak every single day.