Connecting Campuses or Causing Trouble, Smartphone App Gains Popularity at FSU
Posting anonymous Twitter-esque posts? Yes, there’s an app for that. Yik Yak is a relatively new smartphone application developed in 2013 by two Furman University students, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington. The app was intended to act as a virtual bulletin board which would connect students on college campuses.
Users download the app, and then receive a live feed of what other users are saying around them by using the phone’s GPS system. Posts, or “yaks,” are visible to all users within a five mile radius. Other users in the area can comment on posts, as well as upvote or downvote posts and comments.
This is all completely anonymous, with no log in or profile of any kind. The founders intended the anonymity to foster a sense of openness and acceptance, one in which people would be judged only on their ideas and not any preconceived notions of personal identity.
At around 100,000 users and still counting, the app has become a new platform for random thoughts and advertising events as well as cyber bullying and threats. Incidents, such as anonymous bomb threats at high schools across the country being posted on Yik Yak, have caused major media attention from sources such as CNN and The Huffington Post. At Frostburg State University, the posts have not escalated to the level of bomb threats, but many posts would not be fit for publication.
Local users’ posts included a variety of offense and obscene topics. Many posts commented on feuds between on-campus and off-campus Greek organizations. Others asked users to name the “ugliest” girl in a specific sorority or the “easiest” girl on a specific sports team. Often times users included full names of individuals, with no regard for privacy.
Still other posts included vulgar topics such as comparison of penis size or number of sex partners of a particular individual. Many posts described illegal activity, such as use of marijuana and cocaine. Overall, very few posts had any redeemable or intelligent content.
Obviously, the majority of posts on this app should not be taken seriously. However, the posts and general use of this app are not serving any positive purpose to the campus community. Graduating senior Samantha Winkler stated, “[The posts on Yik Yak] made Frostburg State University look very bad. It’s terrible. I think it is a really negative way to hide behind a screen. Many posts are very degrading. If you can’t say it out loud in a crowded room, then you should not say it at all.”
Some students on the app did seem bothered by the immaturity and absurd amount of rudeness. One Yik Yak user, or “yakker,” called for a truce, borrowing the War lyrics, “Why can’t we be friends?” Another, in response to name calling and objectification of people based on physical appearance, one posted, “This all needs to end. We’re not children.”