By Amy Lukac
What are students “yaking” about today? Yik Yak has become one of the most popular apps downloaded on the smart phones of college students.
Furman University graduates, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, created the app in Georgia at the Atlanta Tech Village. The two released the mobile app in November of 2013, and it only took 6 months for the app to rank as the ninth most downloaded social media app.
What exactly is Yik Yak? It is basically an anonymous version of Twitter that allows users to post what’s on their minds without having to worry about being judged. Students yak about their love life, partying, and secret admirations and air their complaints about a class, an assignment, or a professor.
Yik Yak has a voting system as opposed to Facebook’s “like,” or Twitter’s “favorite.” An up arrow and a down arrow appear on the right side of the yaks. If a user taps the up arrow, it represents a positive vote. Tapping the down arrow produces a negative vote.
Yik Yak uses your phone’s GPS to track your location, and allows users to communicate with other fellow yakers within a 10-mile radius. Users are able to view, or “peek” as the app calls it, at other college campus yak feeds or areas, but the voting feature is disabled.
Now doesn’t this app sound like a fun way to voice opinions without getting into trouble? That’s the problem.
Yik Yak has now turned into a controversy. Students are not only using this app innocently, but also as another tool to cyberbully other students and post threats. Many violent instances have been reported, including bomb threats.
Not only are students bullying other students, but there are many “yaks” about professors on campuses as well. Some yaks are harmless, but others are not. Innocent questions about how a professor teaches or about a class in general are normal. However, when the posts start to target professors and classes in negative ways, it becomes unnecessary meanness.
“I have a real problem with individuals who are supposed to be ‘adults’ using social media apps like Yik Yak to post anonymous comments — specifically the really hateful ones and ones that are physically threatening. I am not surprised that this app has been suspended around some high schools (and I suspect middle schools and elementary schools will follow) as that is an age where people are so obsessed with how many “likes” or “favorites” they can get on a posting on social media,” said mass media professor Andrea McClanahan.
She continued, “The anonymity of Yik Yak adds to this obsession because it becomes a game of how outrageous can my yak be to be “up-voted” or “liked” because that is how so many people are receiving validation now — through social media (which in itself is depressing as hell).”
After parents and grade schools found that the app had turned sour, the Yik Yak creators decided to block schools by using GPS coordinates and other measures. The creators stated that their app, created for college students, isn’t appropriate for younger teens.
“I think that this app is neat in theory, and it started out with good intentions. But people these days take things too far when everything is anonymous,” said Melissa Wittemann, a senior at ESU.
Yik Yak turns an entire campus into a virtual chat room. The sometimes funny, but mostly untruthful, ugly, and malicious messages are seen by more than 100 users within seconds. It is safe to say that anonymous messages have grown with technology: from the walls of the bathroom stall, to the walls of your smart phone.
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