Point: Yik Yak fosters hate, not laughs
My first encounter with Yik Yak was when I was accepted to Washington University and decided to visit here. I was sitting in an anthropology class when some guy in a turtle costume got up mid-lecture, yelled a fraternity name, shot a NERF gun into the air and ran out. My Overnight Welcome Leader quickly opened the Yik Yak app on her phone and started reading. In the course of 10 seconds, four posts about this odd event had already reached the masses. I thought it was cool that an app existed that circulated the news of Wash. U. so quickly. I think I would have kept this opinion if that was all Yik Yak was used for, but it’s not.
Yik Yak is an obnoxious place where people go to say something witty they copy and pasted from another site or whine about small problems. Yes, once in a while there are positive posts about Wash. U. And yes, the posts about Ninja Turtle backpack man and the cat on the South 40 are cute. However, for every one of these posts, there are five more about either why Wash. U. sucks, an anonymous letter to whoever’s making you angry or some stuck-up comment about how Wash. U. students are better than Fontbonne University students. I also may pull my hair out if I see one more post about Professor Goldring.
A lot of the posts come across as crass or ungrateful. Most of the people who make these types of comments would never dare to say these things out loud, but if they did, most of us would tell them they are wrong and go secretly up-vote their comments online.
Last year’s posts after the final performance of Black Anthology’s “The Six” proves why Yik Yak’s anonymity is harmful. There is no ownership and there are no consequences as to what students say. Although the Yik Yak team is legally required to report the numerous bomb and shooting threats made online, they don’t need to do anything about the cyber hate. This means that last year’s negative comments about affirmative action and the use of black students as cop target practice passed by with no repercussions. Last year, NBC called Yik Yak «the new home of cyberbullying,» and I don’t think they are out of line in stating so. Wash. U. students are generally good about limiting hateful posts (go us!), but not every college exercises the down-vote as much as we do. The College of Idaho and Utica College recently banned the site from campus because of bullying, and administrators at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Colgate University and Clemson University are actively working to ban the site as well.
But banning Yik Yak isn’t the answer to the problem. Where there are smart phones, there will always be another Yik Yak. Maybe there isn’t a right way to tame Yik Yak commentary, but we can all be more aware of how it functions in our community. All I know is that I don’t need Yik Yak’s negativity in my life, and it feels great to no longer have the app.