There’s a reason this app got banned – The Scarlet and Black
By Marcus Cassidy
One of the best things about having an Android is that I was spared Yik Yak. Even if I had heard about it in passing when during the first months of the year, I had not directly experienced the Yik Yak until the autumn holidays since the application is not compatible with my Android. I like to categorize Yik Yak into its three common uses: doxxing classmates, commenting on the current shitshow that is the contemporary world, and what can only be described as “hornYik Yak”. You haven’t known hell until you’ve seen someone post their name, room number, and Snapchat on a social media app in a desperate plea for attention.
Still, I have to say that my general exposure grew exponentially due to the lack of real recreation on campus at the time. Yik Yak was a happy escape from boredom, until it wasn’t. Nothing kills your enjoyment for anything more than a change of mood from “Classics House” to sexual assault allegations (see images below). Yik Yak was designed as a community forum for cracking relevant jokes and casual snaps. Sometimes he does an amazing job. However, Yik Yak regularly finds himself being used for bigger problems than he was supposed to handle, and it’s slowly become one of my least favorite parts of the college experience.
This year does not mark Yik Yak’s first visit to the iOS App Store. Yik Yak was initially dismantled in 2017. Its popularity stems from its two most problematic traits: anonymity and proximity. This dangerous combination leads to an overly expressive echo chamber of bad takes and harassment. In its original incarnation, the app was regularly used on college campuses across the country to spread racist threats and bigotry.
In an article published by the journal Computers in Human Behavior, several researchers state that “cyberbullying is perpetrated using electronic communication methods and is often characterized by characteristics unique to the online field, namely anonymity and The advertisement”. The large number of full names I’ve seen published in reference to extremely concerning allegations, sometimes of people I know, hit double digits a long time ago.
Since Yik Yak’s anonymity provides a veil of safety, there seems to be a natural instinct for Grinnellians to use the app as a kind of forum. I would normally be proud of the public persecution of habitual abusers, fanatics and assholes in general, but there is an obvious ethical dilemma here. The lifeless emojis that identify your peers help build that incoherent network of hearsay. How can I take up arms against the accused when there is barely an accuser? My desire to believe in my peers is constantly forced to fight against my reluctance to falsely incriminate.
I understand. With a war in Ukraine, a pandemic, a mysteriously useless endowment, and a missing Title IX system, Yik Yak’s anonymity provides an escape from an unpleasant reality. As someone who does code ciphers in his spare time, I certainly have no right to be the fun police. Yik Yak has the ability to produce a humorous community space for a community struggling to reinvigorate its campus life. It allows us to poke fun at our “liberal snouts” (yes, I know the original poster, and yes, they deserve more credit) and laugh together. However, there is no greater enemy of a healthy campus culture than a judgmental atmosphere that keeps people in line through threats of social harassment.
Teachers Mary C. Murphy, Kathryn Boucher, and Christine Logel conducted research on campus culture at six universities and ultimately argued that “when students feel out of place, the opposite is true, and they can disengage and disconnect.
In a college of less than 2,000 students, we see a proportionally large number of our peers daily. The occasional funny joke can’t counteract the immense psychological strain that comes with having your name posted anonymously in a negative light. It makes you paranoid when you feel judged and scrutinized every day.
I’m not really here to criticize the “cancel culture” and defend potential abusers. Rather, the problem is that the existence of issues like these stem from systemic issues in our campus culture.