Concerns over Popular Yik Yak App

By Sabrina Carroll
Elm Staff Writer

Countless forms of social media are floating around in 2014. You can double-tap on Instagram, hashtag in 140 characters or less on Twitter, and check up on Facebook. However, a whole different form of social media has graced the smartphone screens of young adults everywhere. A spinning yak head with beady little eyes is a common symbol that stretches all the way to the University of Hong Kong.  It’s called Yik Yak and is completely changing Washington College’s campus.

Yik Yak has a similar setup to Twitter in that both feature short and to-the-point posts. You can vote posts up or down, reply, as well as see the Yaks of universities all across the world. The difference from the other forms of social media is that whatever you post is completely anonymous.

A student accesses Yik Yak through her smartphone. The application has gained increased popularilty across the United States but especially on college campuses.
A student accesses Yik Yak through her smartphone. The application has gained increased popularilty across the United States but especially on college campuses.

Anonymous is the single word that made the app so intriguing to students. You can spread the word about a club meeting, campus activity, or a rumor. You can also complain about certain aspects of campus, express the frustrations of living with your roommate, or make bad jokes without anyone knowing it’s you.

Mostly, for the WC community, the experience of scrolling through Yik Yak is seeing complaints, jokes, or random facts. With the riskier items posted online, some people like to use the word anonymous as a digital curtain to hide behind.

Darnell Parker, assistant dean for Multicultural Affairs, explained his reasoning for disliking the app. Because Yik Yak is not “moderated like Facebook and Twitter, it creates a hostile environment,” he said.

According to Parker, this may impact WC more than a larger university because we are such a small campus with a tight-knit community. Yik Yak is directly related to sexual harassment and has the ability to make students feel uncomfortable, which does not put the community in a positive light, Darnell said.

He expressed that the “key question” is whether or not the app is used in a respectful way. Sarah Feyerherm, associate vice president for Student Affairs, expressed that Yik Yak can be used positively to “build community,” and disrespectfully with the “promise of anonymity.”

Feyerherm added that, although it has the power to be destructive, a community is always able to change that by not reading it or spreading awareness about its negative effects.

Students are speaking out similarly to those in administrative positions. Freshman Bradley Long said that while you can post something without regret, it is not always with the “best of intentions.”

Freshman Emily Moran agreed by explaining that while you can view some really funny posts, much of it ends up being “trashy,” “immature,” and impacts campus negatively.

Apps like this one can seem lighthearted at first, but privacy does not exist on the Internet, and things can quickly go south. Junior Aliya Merhi agrees as she explained the fun can quickly turn into “whining and backstabbing,” and emotional damage can definitely be done.

Next time you check up on what people are yaking about, just think a little bit about how big of an impact it makes. Remember the power one simple yak has.

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