Yik Yak attack: A snow storm revival

Nothing says throwback more than university students age-regressing back to middle school while stuck inside on a snow-day by reviving Yik Yak.

Yik Yak is a geolocation-based social media platform with a twist––anonymity for its users. The app bans the use of real names on its platform and writing names in posts is a violation of “community guardrails.”

The app creates a feed of short posts by other users within a five-mile radius. Users can comment on posts and like (upvote) or dislike (downvote) posts. Those who choose to post on the app receive “Yakarma,” a point system based on the amount of posts they make and community interactions with posts, similar to Snapchat snap scores.

The anonymity of the app is both its appeal and its downfall. In 2017, the app was discontinued after years of criticism about the cyberbullying and hate speech on the app, with little consequence to users. Yik Yak returned in Aug. 2021 with promises of improvement, although many users had little hope that the new management would be able to follow through.

University of New Haven students are famous, at least on campus, for snow day shenanigans like phallic drawings in the quad and school-wide snowball fights, but in the midst of Snow Storm Kenan, Yik Yak became a part of that legacy, with grade-school behaviors.

While some of the posts on the site were harmless and remained at the content level that the app promises, others validated the concerns previously voiced. Among the cheeky posts looking for hookups, and commentary about people slipping in the weather and complaining about their exes, others surfaced to spread rumors about students’ sex lives and directly commented on people’s appearances, all while identifying these people by name––a violation of app guidelines.

The cannon fodder for the app also included greek life on campus. Posts ranged from schoolyard taunts to genuine concerns about the organizations’ values as they relate to bigotry.

One user wrote, “Does anyone wanna make a club with me that’s like a sorority but it’s for people that have had bad experiences in sororities. It’ll be like a safe space kinda thing for people that wanna be involved.”

A different user wrote, “Greek life is what you make it. Each org at any school is going to have its ups and downs, but there’s no reason to defer [deter] someone else from wanting to try it and join. if you don’t like it u can drop.”

Self championed as an app to “find your herd,” Yik Yak presents a valuable opportunity for community discourse mixed in with some humor, but, as demonstrated by content taken too far and hurtful rumors spread, the app is liable to mutate into something that would have a your ass dragged to the principal’s office and then solidly placed in detention.

As much as the app is fun and creates a platform for some pretty solid feedback, there is a cautionary tale to be told about the app: keyboard warriors and the need to stay kind even when hidden behind the Kevlar of anonymity.