Yik Yak at UTC

Yik Yak, a popular college app where users post anonymous messages, has stormed through the campus community for a few years now and brought harassment issues to light. While many of the posts can take on humorous aspects of life in college, many of them venture on to sexual harassment, sexism, racism, and other forms of harassment.

Since the controversial app was first released in 2013, there have been countless cases of cyber-bullying that have come up due to its anonymous nature. As it has become a sudden hit on college campuses across the country, this is a reason for alarm, especially since the authors of such yaks cannot be stopped or prevented. However, a post can be given up or down votes by other Yik Yak users, and if the post receives five or more down votes, then the entire post and any replies are taken down completely from the app.

Looking at UTC’s “herd,” a particular geographic location, sexual harassment and assault has been a major topic of conversation. The community can be deeply impersonal and harsh, reflecting an uninformed or unsympathetic position. However, there is also great pushback, as the community polices itself fairly well, with overly controversial posts being down voted off the app within a reasonable amount of time.

But there remains the issue of the app not being reliable. Like many social media platforms, what is posted on the app should not be assumed to be true, and although posts can be removed, there is no way to know if false accusations have further spread since originally posted. This can then lead to gossip around campus and social circles, which could be emotionally damaging to the victims of such rumors.

We do not need to necessarily blame the app itself, though, as cyberbullying was obviously not the initial intention of the creators. When negative posts are made, students have used their anonymity for good in order to shape the conversation in a more positive way, or to ban together to get the post removed. Despite all of the hatefulness that revolves around this app, there is a lot of good that actually happens. It can be an incredible tool for students to be able to communicate in an environment where they’re able to express things without the fear of being laughed at, or made fun of.

-Alex Heckert, volunteer blogger

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