Yik Yak’s back at WAC, but do its old habits die hard?

By Riley Dauber
Elm Staff Writer

The anonymous social media app, Yik Yak, returned to college campuses after being discontinued in 2017.

Originally launched in 2013, Yik Yak gave users the ability to post anonymous messages to a discussion board for everyone in a five-mile radius to see. Other users could respond to messages. Users could also upvote a message if they agreed with it or downvote it if they disagreed.

The downvote feature was primarily used to remove posts that cyberbullied other people. If a post received five downvotes, it was deleted.

Despite its growing popularity in the mid-2010s, Yik Yak was criticized for its culture of cyberbullying.

“Before shutting down, Yik Yak was the subject of hate speech and cyberbullying across high school and college campuses,” Jonathan Franklin, a writer for NPR, said.

For the first time in four years, Yik Yak has returned, and the new owners are making sure cyberbullying and hate crimes are not occurring on the app.

“It says if users bully another person, use hate speech, make a threat, or in any way seriously violate the company’s policies, they could be immediately banned from Yik Yak,” Franklin said.

According to the Yik Yak website, “We’re bringing Yik Yak back because we believe the global community deserves a place to be authentic, a place to be equal, and a place to connect with people nearby.”

The mission statement is representative of the main features of the app. Users can post anonymous messages, and everyone is theoretically treated equally since you do not know a person’s identity. It also gives users an opportunity to see what people around them are thinking and feeling.

These functions make Yik Yak a popular social media platform for college students, since it gives them the chance to discuss and criticize aspects of their school while being anonymous.

Students at Washington College are also utilizing Yik Yak to critique topics, such as Public Safety policies, Dining Hall options, and endless homework assignments. While some messages lean towards the positive side, users note that many people use Yik Yak to vent or ask about parties.

“I think Yik Yak creates an anonymous stage for everyone to share any thought that crosses their mind. I think it has value as a safe space to be silly,” freshman Claire Garretson said. “But several people definitely cross a line where it’s disgusting to read or hurtful to others.”

Even though Yik Yak is striving to remove comments related to cyberbullying and hate crimes, the app is a much-discussed topic on campus. Some students see it as an entertaining and humorous platform for interacting with others and criticizing the school, while others do not see the appeal.

Student Government President and senior Kat DeSantis, who discussed the app’s use on campus at the most recent SGA meeting, critiqued the app.

“I believe Yik Yak perpetuates cyberbullying and causes harm to members of our community. Any kind of anonymous platform allows people to hide behind a screen and say hurtful things about others without consequence. I do not believe any kind of entertainment factor is worth the shame, embarrassment, and suffering that students who are called out on the app experience,” DeSantis said.

However, at the moment, many students who use the app seem to enjoy it, although they can still see and understand its possible negative effects.

“I just think everyone should be considerate in how they use [the app],” Garretson said.

Even if Yik Yak has its flaws, it still gives students a platform to discuss campus issues that may be beneficial for higher-ups to hear about. Improvements to institutions like Public Safety or Dining Services could be possible if positive, constructive messages were brought to the forefront.

“It’s supposed to be a fun space and it should stay that way,” Garretson said.

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