We have all seen the scene from the movie “Mean Girls” where Regina George fills the hallways with nasty rumors and a schoolwide brawl breaks out between the students.
I used to watch that scene and sigh with relief, knowing it would be far too outlandish to happen in real life. Then, when I got to college, I realized not only that it was possible, but it was spreading faster than ever thanks to an app called Yik Yak.
For those who are fortunate enough not to know, Yik Yak, an app predominantly used by college students, is a social media app where users can post, or “yak,” to an anonymous message board that is visible to anyone within a 5-mile radius. Those who view the Yak then have the choice to upvote or downvote the post, deciding whether to make it more or less popular. Yaks that receive five or more downvotes are removed from the feed.
Shippensburg Yik Yak, or “ShipYak”, as students have coined it, is a concept that is simple in theory, but on a platform where users can post anything they want and face no repercussions, its anonymity is bound to generate a culture of anxiety and cyberbullying.
Some, however, would argue that there is a positive, reliable side to the app. One of the main reasons I use the app is to see posts from an anonymous user who posts weather updates in the morning. I like to view thembefore I go to class to get a good idea of what the weather will be like during the day, and other Yakkers profess their appreciation for the anonymous weatherman as well. Other yakkers contribute to ShipYak in other ways, like alerting users when a dining area’s line is too long or offering advice on how to ask out a girl they like. These wholesome Yaks give a shimmering glimpse of faith that students are willing to look out for one another, no matter who they are talking to.
Still, users never fail to take advantage of Yik Yak’s anonymity. Within the app, you can find users complaining about their roommates, how fake their friends are, or simply venting about how lonely they are.
But fear not: the Yik Yak website www.yikyak.com was considerate enough to add a section dedicated to Mental Health Resources. “Yik Yak is a catalyst for honest conversations,” the website states, followed by a few suggestions of what to users should do if they witness bullying on the app.
They also included a list of tips on how to stay “mindful” while using the app: “Remember that Yik Yak is just an app. Don’t jump to conclusions about your life or others based on posts.” It is clear that the creators of the app fail to understand the gravity of the platform they have created, as no one is safe from the instant defamation that they have made possible.