the influence of the anonymous app on campus life

For many students, YikYak is another app to browse to keep busy. The same mild distraction one might look for on TikTok or Twitter.

“I continue [YikYak] about once a day,” sophomore Aspen Carvajal said. “I scroll for maybe 10 minutes, just looking for something funny.”

The pseudonymous app has re-entered student social media lexicons across the country after being relaunched in August 2021. For the most part, users broadcast their daily thoughts, ask for anonymous advice and post school jokes.

However, this is not a laughing matter for everyone.

“When you have an anonymous forum located within a five-mile radius, when someone posts something that’s really offensive or even violent or threatening, there’s another layer of offense,” said Andrew Wilson, president of the Student Government Association. “It makes it more real.”

During the Spring 2022 semester, several student groups contacted SGA regarding the anonymous application, including SU’s NAACP chapter and Greek Life organizations.

Concerns have been raised over speech on the app containing racist language, slander and rumors involving student organizations and their members.

Quinn Delorme of the Salisbury Pan-Hellenic Council says the Greek life officer who lobbied for YikYak to be blacklisted from the school’s servers no longer attends SU, but their feelings towards the app remain at the table. within the council.

“We don’t think it’s a good app for college life,” Delorme said. “We believe this promotes stereotypical ideas and opinions about our organization, and often the negative outweighs the positive.”

Delorme added that the Panhellenic Council represents all sororities, responding to any rumors that emerge regarding sororities or their members. She said sororities often seemed like an easy target on YikYak.

“Most of the time the people who say these negative things aren’t even members of the organization they’re talking about.”

Despite a majority vote by the Student Senate in favor of banning the YikYak, the legality of such a procedure was uncertain. Wilson ultimately concluded that SGA could not ban the app without the First Amendment being challenged and used its veto power.

“We spoke to the college board, the college attorneys,” Wilson said. “We found that the Attorney General who would represent SU if this went to court was unlikely to look fondly at the school for [blacklisting YikYak] and that would be a very difficult defense for them to make.

Wilson said he saw both sides. While he doesn’t think it’s inherently a bad thing for students to have a place to talk freely with each other anonymously, he acknowledges that it can create a toxic environment when discussions turn hateful or threatening.

“I think there are some good anonymous forums online — Reddit, for example, where there’s a lot of good anonymous discussion,” Wilson said. “What bothers me is the combination of anonymity and closeness, that’s where it can get dangerous. I’ve seen unsubstantiated rumours, racism, sexism, homophobia… and I think YikYak is just replicating that.

Schools like Johns Hopkins University have adapted a forum called Piazza, where students register with their student ID so that any harmful comments can be directly linked to the poster.

Wilson indicated that SU would be interested in making Piazza a healthier alternative for students, although that isn’t happening anytime soon.

“It would be the perfect combination to eliminate completely anonymous speech with no repercussions while retaining the fun community aspect, campus jokes and the like, of YikYak,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately this has not yet been revealed as too few people in the Salisbury area have signed up.”

YikYak is not currently on the SGA’s agenda, but Wilson said he would not be surprised if concerns were raised again in future forums.

“Another incident is bound to happen soon enough. It’s a ticking time bomb.”


Gull Life Editor

Image courtesy of Ryland Crisman

Jennifer C. Burleigh