Yik Yak, a new social media application, is taking college campuses by storm. The app intertwines two proven platform concepts based on Twitter (TWTR) and Reddit. This unique combination, which permits users to create, and vote on, popular threads, has catapulted Yik Yak to the social media forefront. One appeal of the app is that it is “hyper local," meaning it only displays posts issued within 1.5 miles of the user. Yik Yak also has subsections dedicated to the ongoing proceedings of over 100 college campuses. Furthermore, Yik Yak has utilized an anonymous user standard, in which every mention, post, and comment is untraceable. This allows members greater freedom and requires less user discretion (which too many people presently lack).
Not surprisingly, Yik Yak's anonymity has received some harsh criticism. By allowing users to remain hidden behind keyboards, critics cite the potential for harsh confrontations. Many studies show that people issue statements online that they wouldn't otherwise say in public. Unfortunately, by removing the threat of punishment, cyber bullying, racism, and bigotry have become quite prevalent. In fact, due to nonexistent deterrence, Yik Yak users have already posted a flurry of school shooting and bombing threats. As a result, some universities have blocked access to the application while on campus.
Regardless, Yik Yak’s founder, Brooks Buffington, says that anonymity is critical to the success and popularity of the application. He claims that anonymous posting capabilities help maintain user privacy, encourage participation, and differentiate Yik Yak from competition.
Nevertheless, the Yik Yak platform isn’t entirely defenseless. The application utilizes a collective post-flagging process, where users can report offensive statuses. In addition to this, any posts that include individuals’ names are automatically deleted. This helps reduce some cyber bullying, but does not completely eliminate it.
Although Yik Yak presents many negatives for universities, it’s actually quite useful for college employees. Some campuses have used the application as a way to view current student interests (and complaints). Colleges then use Yik Yak as a tool to fix student critiques. Ultimately, the social media app provides students, and adults, a useful forum to express themselves; however, sometimes hiding behind a keyboard isn’t the best way to be heard.