Recently, a new app called Yik Yak, which brands itself as a “no profile, no password, it’s all anonymous” app, has been gaining popularity on the UT campus. Yik Yak is essentially a Twitter feed designed to offer its participants a live feed of what people are saying, anonymously, within a 5 mile radius of their current location. Posts are accompanied by an “upvote” and “downvote” feature, allowing readers to like or dislike each post.
The co-founder of Yik Yak, Brooks Buffington, told CNN in an interview that “the app was made for college-age users or above, for college campuses to act as a virtual bulletin board.” Brooks also said that “with anonymity comes a lot of responsibility, and college students have the maturity that it takes to handle those responsibilities.”
Sadly, Buffington’s faith in our age group’s ability to handle that responsibility was misplaced. Because of the app’s anonymity and lax regulation, its “bulletin board” intentions are not executed. Instead, Yik Yak has become the platform for crude, disrespectful comments and cyberbullying with virtually no repercussions. UT students use this app to publicize their racism, chauvinism, and negative or inappropriate feelings regarding their peers, many of whom are, disturbingly, called out by name. Sororities and fraternities are slandered, sexual innuendos and “booty calls” run rampant, and cultural insensitivities that were put to bed decades ago resurface.
I am positive that, if Buffington read UT’s feed, he would retract his statement that college students are mature enough to navigate the app, as well as his statement that “Anonymity can be a really beautiful thing, and one of the reasons we made it anonymous is it gives people a blank slate to work from, so you’re not judged on your race or sexuality or gender.”
Buffington’s cluelessness and idealization of the way his app is being used is absurd. Because posters are anonymous, they are not judged for judging others for their race, sex, or gender, which they do often and crudely.
When speaking to many UT students who actively use the app, they generally state that they believe Yik Yak is a crass waste of time but do admit that the ridiculousness of the posts suck them in. It seems to be the shock factor that keeps students engaged.
“I am appalled by [Yik Yak’s] stupidness,” business marketing sophomore Megan Jodie said. “It makes me feel disappointed in some of the people that go to school at UT.”
Students should channel that shock and disappointment toward deleting the app and recognizing that even anonymous comments can hurt the campus community.
Triolo is a journalism freshman from Hollister, Calif.