Posted on 15 October 2014.
“For fun, I sit in McConn with headphones that are playing nothing and listen to people’s conversations. Priceless!” yakked an anonymous student recently.
Actually, there’s no way to know if the user is an Indiana Wesleyan University student because of the complete anonymity afforded by the newest fad mobile app: Yik Yak.
Yik Yak is the newest social app used by many students on IWU’s campus.
Yik Yak is a social media app that, according to their website, allows users to “get a live feed of what everyone’s saying around you.” Like an anonymous twitter, users post 200-character “yaks,” which are then upvoted or downvoted by other readers.
Five downvotes removes the yak entirely, while upvotes will increase visibility on the app’s “hot” page. The complete lack of usernames or profiles means one cannot follow or unfollow people. Messages show up from every user in your location, approximately a mile radius.
“I think it started out harmless,” Connor Neel (jr) said. “I didn’t see a problem with it. I liked it at first.”
Neel has been using the app for about three weeks but less lately.
“At first, maybe I just didn’t notice as many of the bad yaks, but now, some of them are getting very out-of-hand,” he said.
People feel free to post whatever is on their mind since they will be anonymous.
Jossy Carder (fr) also has been involved with Yik Yak since it started gaining popularity.
“You didn’t really connect with students, but you were talking to other students so it kind of felt like you were part of IWU,” Carder said.
Due to the inappropriate nature of some of the yaks, students have questioned whether the administration will get involved.
“I think Yik Yak is still in the stages where most people don’t know about it, its just still making its way to us,” IWU Social Media Manager Jay Filson said. “I think they [the administration] are still trying to figure out what it is.”
Yik Yak does allow for communities to self-monitor, Filson added, encouraging students to “band together” and downvote yaks that are detrimental to the IWU community.
However, Cindy Coats (sr) decided to simply delete the app.
“I saw it and I wasn’t going to sit there and read it,” Coats said. “It doesn’t build up IWU at all. It makes us look bad. We’re supposed to be a set-apart school for Jesus; we really are. We aren’t living a beyond-reproach status, in my opinion.”
Neel is also concerned about how this makes IWU look as a school. He does not believe that our feed is a true representation of our student body.
“If someone were visiting and were to look at our Yik Yak, it might give them the wrong idea about how the people are,” Neel said.
Carder has seen the positive side of the student body through Yik Yak.
“If someone posts something about feeling down, there are some people on there that will say, ‘It’s okay, God will help you through this,’ but then there’s other representations of people too,” Carder said.
If Yik Yak continues to grow in popularity and in inappropriate qualities, the anonymity of the app makes it difficult to monitor. At this point, he doesn’t feel there is a reason to get involved, but admits it could be a problem in the future.
“There’s a couple college campuses [Norwich University, University of Iowa] that have already banned it. I don’t know if theres a way that we could regulate it without banning it, or if we would even want to,” Filson said. “We don’t want to have to step in, but if it got to a point where students are being harassed or bullied or really hurtful things are being said, then I think its probably something we would look into.”
This has already been part of Carder’s experience.
“I’ve already been targeted twice with Yik Yak. Someone said, ‘The annoying girl in Hodson, please get out,’ and that made me really upset,” Carder said. “There was another time when they said, ‘I don’t know why Jossy’s so mad, if we all know she’s a slut.’”
Yik Yak is also full of Yaks complaining about roommates, teachers and classes.
“Quiet hours clearly mean nothing to my suitmate [sic] who is currently blasting ‘smack that’ while she’s showering,” a user posted.
Still, many other Yaks have a more positive nature.
“It’s crazy how spending 5 minutes in the presence of God can change my attitude completely #iloveJesus,” another user posted.
“What we would really hope, as a university, is that our students would be mature enough and would be conscious enough about the things that they say that we don’t have to worry about it,” Filson said.