The trouble with Yik Yak

by Beth Pearson

Staff Writer

I love gossip as much as the next person. Nothing makes you feel quite as good about your messed up life as hearing about the small (or large) scale disasters committed by others on the daily. Until recently, in order to maintain some semblance of dignity, gossip was something shared between friends be-fore it reluctantly hydrated and threw back a Cliff bar in preparation for its immoral journey through the grapevine. However, in an age of constantly evolving technologies, the phenomenon of anonymity has arisen. The only thing that shows one’s true colors more than that punch you drank last weekend is the ability to hide behind a screen. No one knows your name and you are free to say what-ever you please, right?

Platforms such as Ask.fm and Tumblr were all the rage in middle and high school, but now Yik Yak dominates the field of anonymity. For those of you who don’t know what Yik Yak is, Apple describes it as being, “like a local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you. It allows any-one to connect and share information with others without having to know them.”

Of course such an accessible, anonymous plat-form raises traditional questions of issues like bullying, the use of inappropriate language and crass references. But what many have failed to recognize or appreciate is that Yik Yak readership is not just limited to the current student body.

Any prospective student, family, esteemed guest, professor, or visitor of any other type has the ability to read everything posted. This adds an interesting dimension to the college selection process for prospective students. Not only do they have the classic methods of tours, class visits, overnight stays, and even online re-sources, they can now see everything posted on Yik Yak. That time you made a racist comment? They can see that. When you objectified that girl that lives down the hall? They can see that, too. Ultimately, based off of what is mostly posted on the app, Yik Yak creates the illusion that Sewanee is an incredibly unsafe (physically and emotionally) environment that serves to tear down far more than it can build up. I for one would like to think that the majority of posts don’t accurately rep-resent the bulk of the student body, but to any visitor, how would they know any better than to believe what’s written to be a universal truth?

I’m not saying that the solution to the problem is censoring Yik Yak. I am a strong proponent of free speech. But I do believe that one’s speech on the Internet – anonymous or not – should be approached with more care. The repercussions of continuing on with the current con-tent could be larger than any of us foresee. One of the great things about this institution is that it does foster real and deep relationships. However, that is seldom reflected on Yik Yak. So, Sewanee, please think before you Yak.

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