A new social media platform wields a double-edged sword

William Manolarakis

Ever have a thought pass through your head that you wished you could share with other people instantaneously…and secretly? 

 Perhaps your roommate always wakes you up in the morning with his alarm, and you just want to take it and throw it out the window.  Maybe you found the trek up five flights of the behemoth known as Tolentine Hall to be overwhelming and exhausting and felt that others could relate to your struggle. 

Allow me to introduce you to Yik Yak, a social media app to combines the brief nature of tweets—200 characters or less—with the luxury of anonymity. 

Released in Nov. 2013, Yik Yak has taken college campuses by storm this school year, as several hundreds of thousands of students use the service and over 15,000 “Yaks” are posted each month. 

Similar to Twitter “favorites” and Facebook “likes”, Yik Yak has “up votes” and “down votes”. 

The Yaks with high numbers of up-votes reach the upper levels of the “Hot” list, while those that are down voted five times are deleted from the app.  

While down voting allows users to remove posts that can be considered offensive or hateful, the app is not exempt from cyber-bullying by any means.

The nature of Yik Yak’s anonymity is two-fold, for while it enables one to share one’s thoughts under the protection of privacy, others with malicious intentions in mind can easily abuse such privilege. While Villanova students have, for the most part, not exercised poor judgment regarding the content of their Yaks, which certainly speaks volumes about the high character of our students, other college campuses have not been as immune to the darker side of Yik Yak.

At Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., students in the Colgate University Association of Critical Collegians have launched protests stemming from the racist and bigoted messages posted on their school’s Yik Yak feed. 

Rallying around the hashtag #canyouhearusnow, the students there are taking a stand against the racism on campus that became extremely prominent in the form of Yik Yak posts. 

After founding Yik Yak, the creators of the app took steps to limit its inherent potential for cyberbullying. 

They placed a minimum age limit of 17 on its users and blocked them from posting on the app in middle school and high school areas through the use of geo-sensing, which were certainly steps in the right direction. 

However, several cyberbullying experts believe that underage students can evade such cyberbullying precautions by taking simple steps to fabricate their ages or provide the app with an inaccurate location. 

Yik Yak requires a great deal of responsibility on the part of its users in order to properly function, in spite of the anonymous nature of its posts. Under the veil of secrecy, many people say things and behave in ways that differ from the ways that they would act if the light were(was) shined right on them. 

Would you want someone to flip a switch that allowed everyone on campus to read your Yaks knowing that it was you who posted them? 

I know I wouldn’t, primarily because some of the things I have posted on Yik Yak were “just for the ups”. While they were not discriminatory or hateful, I would not be proud to have my name next to them. 

Furthermore, with each Yak we post, we are feeding our addiction to social media. 

Every up-vote that we receive provides us with a temporary sensation of pleasure, morphing the app into a constant quest for the prized feeling of seemingly being understood by our peers. 

Unlike Twitter, in which most tweets receive single-digit amounts of favorites and rarely top double-digit favorites, a relatively large percentage of Yik Yak posts receives double-digit up-votes, providing the user with a great sense of pride and accomplishment in his or her idea. 

Note: this “addiction” is not necessarily a negative one, but it is certainly something to keep in mind when deciding whether to scroll through the latest Yaks or to finally start the paper you have been putting off for hours. 

While the app has the capacity to bring us together, especially on Saturdays when Villanova Football is prepared to tackle its next victim, it can also tear us apart. 

We, as a community, must ensure that such separation does not occur, for by doing so, we can sit back, relax, and enjoy reading the mostly relatable and at times, hilarious Yaks that Villanova students have been posting for the past several months now. 

The current situation at Colgate serves as a cautionary tale for what could occur if we fall prey to hate and malice in our posts, though I have full faith in the ’Nova Nation that such an occurrence will not be the case.