Editorial: Yik Yak responsibly


Remember Yik Yak? Take a minute to rack your brains – it’s been a few years since you might’ve used it or heard its name.

If nothing comes to mind and this all sounds like gibberish, you’ll know those cursed two words soon enough. This notorious app is back to wreak havoc on campus. Somehow, we didn’t learn our lesson from Yik Yak’s peak in popularity five years ago. 

The most accurate way to describe Yik Yak is a location-based anonymous community forum. 

All users, or Yakkers, are anonymous – with no official accounts or any information to trace them to. Yakkers upload short text posts that can be viewed by anyone within a five mile radius. Other Yakkers in the area can up vote or down vote the post, or reply to it in a thread.

The launch of Yik Yak dates back to 2013 — and gained notoriety shortly after. It was especially common on college campuses across the country, in addition to high schools and middle schools.

You can assume how messy it got. When you give college students an anonymous forum, good intentions go down the drain. The app fostered utter chaos – cyberbullying, hate speech and unjustified rumors.

After a myriad of complaints, Yik Yak’s plug was pulled in 2017. However, in late August of this year, Yik Yak returned to the App Store.

What changed? To prevent the toxic behavior which resulted from its first run, Yik Yak’s owners added “Community Guardrails.

Any posts deemed inappropriate – including identification, harassment and bullying, threats and fake news – won’t be accepted. 

Yet, with the extensive popularity of the app, Yik Yak’s team isn’t able to moderate every post. Instead, it’s up to the community of Yakkers to report a post first so the moderators can review it. 

Are these new guidelines trustworthy enough to fall back on? Not every single post involving hate will get reported. Even if a post eventually gets removed, it could be up for quite some time – enough for hundreds of users to view it. 

Regardless of these changes, Yik Yak will continue to promote hate.

No current Lehigh students were here to experience the commotion Yik Yak caused on campus during its initial launch. Some of us experienced the app elsewhere, in middle school and high school.

Nonetheless, current students have the hang of it. Our campus continues to witness the same hate speech and needless jabs at named individuals and groups from a few years ago.

The silver lining is that the app can provide comedic relief. Some posts have genuinely good intentions and harmless jokes that are amplified through up votes – which may be why many people downloaded the app in the first place. 

Still, the app is fraught with negativity. Students continue to single out individuals on campus and groups, like Greek chapters, outright insulting them. We can’t forget the spread of posts involving racism, sexism and homophobia, too. 

Additionally, rumors on the app spread like wildfire. Anyone can say anything, with no evidence, and create a false narrative. 

The anonymous aspect is low stakes, with no personal consequences. These are mostly things that no one would say or post if they could be identified. 

Yik Yak has provided us with little to nothing, instead showing us this campus’s true colors – giving into the endless hate and attacks on our own peers.

Comedy crosses the line when it’s harmful. You might think it’s funny, but you wouldn’t want to be on the opposite end. It’s all fun and games until you’re the one being singled out. 

Have we matured at all? It’s almost like we’re reliving middle school. 

We’re far past the point of teaching others to respect their peers and “spread love, not hate.” With almost everyone being at least 18 years old, it’s straight up immature to spend precious time on Yik Yak to talk bad about our peers. 

Yik Yak promotes hate, acting as a platform that grants students permission to use such behavior.

Our peers across campus will, without a doubt, still download it and continue to be active on it.

If we want this degrading behavior to stop, there’s only so much we can do.

In terms of personal decisions, we can choose to disregard it – never downloading it or simply deleting it off of our phones.

If we choose to keep the app, it’s best to encourage a collective halt to the mean-spirited posts, and instead keep the anonymous messages pure.

Take advantage of the new reporting guidelines now that they are an option. It’s not the greatest situation to be in, but it’s only up to us to Yak with good intentions.

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