QuinnipiYAK’s latest social media trend

By on September 3, 2014

It quickly became apparent on the Quinnipiac campus that with a new group of freshmen came the campus’ latest social media obsession: Yik Yak. Yik Yak is a free app that uses smartphone location services to place the user within a 1.5 mile radius of other users in the area.

After download is complete, users can post their thoughts and observations in 200 characters or less. Once a statement is posted, readers can “up vote” or “down vote” the content based on their opinion. This app operates similarly to Twitter; however, the anonymity gives posters the confidence to say things they wouldn’t normally say.

While this app is not new, it is just now making its big debut at QU. However, in the past year, this app has wreaked havoc on countless high school and middle school campuses. As a new source of widespread bullying, students find themselves the targets of malicious posts and parents and principals are speaking out.

In Fairfield, the public school district used GPS programming to block the app in two high schools and three middle schools because of bullying issues they experienced, including racial harassment and bomb threats at the schools. In Westport, a high schooler felt so upset about what her peers had posted about her that she left school to escape it.

While the app has not had any major instances of bullying for those located around Quinnipiac, there is still plenty of room for it to occur. In response to the app’s abuse at high school and middle schools, the creators, Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, added a 17+ rating to the app. This allows parents to access their children’s smartphones and restrict their ability to use the app.

Additionally, in the terms and conditions, there are multiple anti-bullying pleas. Despite these efforts, there is still offensive activity taking place and little can be done about finding out who posts each comment.

Students seem to be split on their opinions toward the app.

“[The app] is a great way to find out information about what is happening around you and is stress free because it is anonymous, but at the same time that anonymity can be a threat of cyber bullying,” said sophomore Sabrina Younas.

“People can say whatever they want because it is anonymous,” freshman Casey Herzog added.

As for college campuses, the content seems to be quite different. Recent Quinnipiac Yik Yak feeds, for example, contain mostly comments expressing rivalries between fraternities and opposing schools. Other up-voted content includes sarcastic comments about classes, bookstore prices or campus dining.Yaks about parties and the aftermath of weekend nights out are popular as well, which can provide entertainment and can create a sense of unity among students.

Popular on the Quinnipiac feed are Yaks like, “How long should we go without telling the freshman that their high school relationships won’t last” and “So over the uphill walk to Village.” Another up-voted Yak said, “Forever wondering if Toads will find my dignity.”

In terms of those Yaks that go too far, there is a system for taking them down: if a Yak receives enough down votes, it will be deleted, or it can be removed by the app if somebody flags it as offensive. At that point there is no way to know who has already seen the post.

The app’s popularity comes as no surprise as it follows many of the trends of other social media outlets: users can post things they think are clever and then receive feedback, praise and comments from their peers, all while keeping their identity a secret. It is certainly not the first app of its kind and surely won’t be the last.

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