By Liv Barry
When students returned to Washington College for the spring semester, many were surprised to find that Yik Yak, a popular anonymous social media app, was seemingly blocked on school WiFi.
“You’re the first one at the party. No one near your current location has posted yet,” the app’s homepage said, prompting users to make their first post.
Upon turning on cellular data or a personal hotspot, however, users were able to access posts that were not available while on any of the Apogee Resnet networks.
Despite possible evidence otherwise, administration maintains that Yik Yak was never intentionally blocked on campus WiFi.
“Folks have told me there have been some glitches in it and can’t always get it to load, but it has not been blocked to my knowledge,” Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sarah Feyerherm said.
Vice President for Marketing and Communications Brian Speer echoed this sentiment.
“I have also spoken with IT and they have not blocked the site. I am also following up with Apogee, but it is highly unlikely that they have done anything without notifying the College,” Speer said.
While the platform is operating normally on campus WiFi as of Jan. 30, the temporary issue raises concern over a more permanent block.
Although students have the ability to share their opinions through campus publications and the Student Government Association, Yik Yak allows for a unique, informal mode of expression that students might not feel the freedom to employ in academic or extracurricular settings.
The forum cultivates a sense of community on campus that is simply not present on any other social media site. Students use the app to commiserate over classes, spread information about campus events, and post the occasional plea for a casual hookup.
“Yik Yak feels like a cool place to go and just vent out your frustrations with the College,” senior Noah Vargas said. “Usually, whenever there’s something that everyone is thinking, it shows up on there. It’s a great way to communicate information as well.”
Despite its popularity with college students, the first iteration of the platform, which was launched in 2013, quickly devolved into chaos. According to previous Elm coverage, within four years of its launch, Yik Yak was shut down following complaints of racist and sexist threats.
However, an updated version of Yik Yak was announced in the fall of 2021. According to TechCrunch, to prevent cyberbullying and discriminatory posts, Yik Yak 2.0 has a “one strike” policy: any user who violates their terms and conditions is immediately banned.
Although the forum can bring students together, it is still plagued by the sameissues. Hateful remarks are often taken down by moderators or downvoted by users, but their presence has an impact on students.
“Every time I hear about the app, it’s because some sort of hateful content has been posted,” junior Griffin Lofft said. According to Lofft, who does not use Yik Yak himself, the app is frequently mentioned during SGA meetings and believes that the anonymous nature of the app enables hateful comments.
However, a ban on Yik Yak would do nothing but dissolve community bonds, directing hate to other social media networks, or even to face-to-face communication.
Yik Yak played a pivotal role in campus culture last October, when the SGA voted to promote the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to club status despite its discriminatory statement of faith. While users expressed their support for LGBTQ+ students who felt slighted by the decision, there were a handful of people who posted homophobic remarks in defense of the FCA.
Because of the controversy sparked by these posts, the conversation shifted from SGA in-drama to a campus-wide conversation about discrimination.
As adults, students should be expected to abide by both WC’s anti-discrimination policies, as well as Yik Yak’s. This means that they have the responsibility to take care of their peers by reporting and condemning hate when it is posted. By banning Yik Yak, the WC administration would only undermine the maturity of its students.
In order to continue cultivating a space for students to express their thoughts and opinions, students need to be weary of the hate speech present on Yik Yak; but as it stands, a ban would do nothing but silence students.
Photo by Mia Snyder.
Photo Caption: During the first two weeks of class, students struggled to use the anonymous social media site Yik Yak.