If you haven’t heard of it, you probably will soon. It’s the new popular app on Albion’s campus and across hundreds of other college campuses throughout the nation. It’s called Yik Yak.
Yik Yak is an app for iPhone and Android users that allows people to anonymously post or reply to others’ 200 character-or-less posts. Using their phones’ location services, users can only view other’s “yaks” based on proximity to the phone. At Albion, it’s growing every day, but is that necessarily a good thing?
The app has gotten both positive and negative reviews online. Albion communication studies professor Andy Boyan teaches social media classes at Albion and spoke with The Pleiad to outline what makes YikYak worth noting.
“There’s three really special elements to Yik Yak: the anonymity, the up-votes/down-votes and the location,” Boyan said. “The location, in combination with those other two, it makes this app special and why it’s popular.”
Boyan explained that anonymity is a “hot topic” right now in social media because as sites like Facebook and Twitter have grown, everyone has the ability to know anything about anyone. Nothing is really anonymous anymore, but Yik Yak has changed that.
“People love to gossip,” Boyan said. “We are social animals and [Yik Yak] allows us to have that social space without the inhibitions of a Facebook, a Twitter, or an Instagram.”
Students have not held back. They have been “yaking” about anything from Baldwin critiques to fraternity parties to squirrel jokes. Ashley Tice, Lake Orion sophomore, enjoys the app.
“I like it,” Tice said. “I think it’s really funny and entertaining, but I think it has the potential to turn into the new Formspring with bullying and calling specific people out.”
Formspring.com is a website that allows others to anonymously ask questions to a certain person, and is usually linked with his or her Facebook profile. That person can then reply with an answer to that question, if they so choose.
The newer version of Formspring that has become better known is Ask.fm. Both websites leave the potential open for cyber-bullying. Boyan compared Yik Yak to Ask.fm in terms of this issue.
“[Ask.fm] is well-known in high-schools, it leads to all kinds of bullying because of specific names, and because of insinuation. Yik Yak has approached this: any names, any personal information is gone fast.” Boyan said.
Yik Yak automatically removes most posts with names or other identifying information to eliminate the cyber-bullying issue the other sites have faced. It also gives rules that “yakers” must follow:
- You do not bully or specifically target other yakers.
- You DO NOT bully or specifically target other yakers.
- Zero tolerance policy on posting people’s phone numbers.
- Don’t clutter people’s feed with useless or offensive yaks. If you see a useless of offensive yak, make sure to do your part by downvoting or reporting it.
- If your yaks continue to be downvoted or reported, you will be suspended.
- Ride the Yak.
These rules can be found in the bottom-right “more” section of the app. Though the rules keep named-individuals safe, that doesn’t stop yakers from posting yaks about certain organizations at Albion. Groups such as fraternities, sororities, sports teams, clubs and grades have all been highlighted by the app.
Fraternity member Matt Meyers, Midland junior, who calls himself an “avid yaker,” has experienced this, but isn’t bothered.
“I don’t take it seriously in the least bit,” Meyers said. “I look at it as more of a joke.”
Other students such as Lucas Marble, Sparta junior, disagree.
“I just think it causes a lot of pointless drama,” Marble said, “especially at a small school.”
Some, like Bailey Beem, Avoca junior, agree with both sides.
“I think it’s fun but also really horrifying,” said Beem. “People post silly jokes and things we can all relate to, so that’s fun. We kind of bond over stupid things like squirrels and gross food and parties, that people in other places wouldn’t understand. It’s also really horrifying though, because as soon as people realized it was anonymous, the hate started going strong. It can get really creepy and just downright mean, because the posters don’t have to answer to anyone.”
Whether students see the app as fun or horrifying, there’s no denying that YikYak is growing in popularity, especially on Albion College’s campus. Who knows how long the craze will stay, but for now it has certainly begun to dominate social media platforms for college-aged students.
Photo courtesy of yikyakapp.com