Previously in last week’s Slate Speaks on transparency with the university, the idea of students receiving information from Yik Yak regarding events on campus was brought up. While many students are smart enough to understand that Yik Yak is not a reliable source of information, the flow of information on campus has reached the point where it’s the only way students can get information in a timely manner.
Part of the problem is the lack of communication coming from more official sources. We learn things from YikYak or Instagram because the areas we should be hearing from aren't always forthcoming with information. Because of the nature of social media, using it as a news source can be dangerous.
Most people are not journalists or trained in communications. They post incorrect, misleading, or even inflammatory things, which often end up muddying the details of events when we need clarity. The solution needs to be official sources offering accurate information quickly.
If SUPD or the university were to inform students of what is happening before the rumor mill starts turning, we could avoid a lot of these issues. People are still going to discuss events on social media, but that should come second, instead of being the primary source.
It becomes incredibly difficult both as a journalist and as a student to stay informed when there is no definitive source of information students can turn to, then the severity of situations can become greatly over exaggerated and more dangerous.
On top of that, two separate incidents can become interconnected and far worse for those involved in either. A year or so ago, a student passed away and that same weekend there was an assault off-campus. Yik Yak quickly began to spread rumors that the student was one in the same, when it was not the case. For some, though, the damage was already done.
Unless more is done to inform students through the proper channels they will continue to turn to apps and anonymous messaging, and misinformation will continue to spread. These apps can provide the basics of information in certain situations, but in the long term it is a greater risk to the campus overall if no one knows what the truth really is.