How Dangerous Can Riding the Yak of Yik Yak Be?

By Isabelle Beecy on December 16, 2014
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Yik Yak has become a popular social media app among students. Photo from http://www.thedepauw.com/news/view.php/849799/Yik-Yak-the-latest-social-media-craze-at

There’s a new social media app in town, and its name is Yik Yak, driving controversy by its anonymous nature.

Cyberbullying and threats have become such a problem in middle schools and high schools where students use the app that some schools have banned its usage. There have also been threats of all kind, from bomb threats to threats of physical violence on high school and college campuses.

Kelly Garrett, an associate professor at Ohio State who teaches about social media, believes that while anonymous communication has its place, anonymity can cause problems. People say things they wouldn’t normally say in other communication where there is a name and face attached.

Garrett said that while down votes can get racist or sexist posts removed – posts that gain five down votes are removed from the app – it has not yet been good in protecting individuals or smaller groups. Up votes on the negative posts could also be seen as an endorsement of or agreement with those kinds of posts. Garrett added that with the increasing popularity of the app, either the negative yaks will be drowned out by other yaks or there will be more people who post inflammatory yaks for popularity.

Garrett also commented that anonymity has perceptions of being completely anonymous when it isn’t, as it is possible to look at who said what or use third-party developers’ policies to find who created the post.

At Ohio State, users seem inclined to let others know when their yaks are out of line. Mikayla Bodey, a public affairs major who uses the app daily, says that on Yik Yak, things can get testy at times when people bring up controversial issues. When things go too far and posts become racist, sexist, or otherwise inappropriate, Bodey says that for the most part, people will downvote it and otherwise discourage it. When users make a comment to discourage it, she says, “[T]hey’ll just make a comment like ‘That’s really inappropriate’ or ‘You probably shouldn’t say that’ or ‘That’s not true’.”

Yik Yak does have its good side, though. For some students who use the app, it provides humor throughout the day. She says the humor is easily accessible and added. “It’s not like Twitter where you have to follow, like, a million people.”

For others, Yik Yak is a great way to pass time and share their thoughts. Kody Zack, a freshman who is pre-majoring in industrial systems engineering, uses the app daily. He thinks it is a good way to spend time and a good way to get things off your chest without judgment because of who you are.

As for the future of the app? Garrett says it is important to understand what threats are present and how it’s being used. He also brought up the ability to look to other, similar apps about cases of libel, threats, slander, and other negative comments. Bodey has similar views, saying, “I think really the best strategy for it is, like at Ohio State, there are a lot of people, so when someone posts something that’s particularly negative or racist or just really disrespectful, everyone else will down vote or discourage it.”

 

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By Isabelle Beecy

Uloop Writer
Hey, I'm Isabelle Beecy. I'm a 20-year-old fourth-year strategic communications student at The Ohio State University. Hoping to eventually break into the racing world as PR. Lover of country music, horses, and Duran Duran.

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