(This article was one I originally wrote for The American Word)
I heard about Yik Yak for the first time in the beginning of the semester. I was on a weekend retreat in Maryland with a group of fellow students. I was surprised to see so many people checking their phones during the two days we were gone from campus. It turns out everybody was using this new app called Yik Yak. They were checking out, for the most part, what happened at the different fraternity parties the night before. Some people were checking on their own parties while others were looking at the ones their friends had gone to. I had only just heard of it, but I could already tell what role it was starting to play on college campuses.
Yik Yak is a new app. Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, two college graduates from Furman University, created it in November 2013.
The way it works is pretty simple. The app allows people to make anonymous posts, also known as “yaks.” Then, the posts are either upvoted or downvoted and commented on. The users earn reputation points, or “yakarma”, with the more upvotes they get. It also works based on location meaning you can only see other “yaks” that are within 1.5 miles of your location.
Yik Yak’s target audience is us; Yik Yak aims their app at college students. Their number of users grows daily and currently it is on more than 1,000 college campuses worldwide.
It has had a huge effect on college campuses even though it hasn’t been around for that long. A lot of college students like to use Yik Yak to get a sense of the community they belong to. TDR even embraced this idea a few weeks ago. They printed out screen shots of different yaks students had posted about TDR.
The effect of Yik Yak’s power has had many different reactions. Some colleges have actually reached out to Yik Yak to see how they can better use it on campus.
But, the power it has is also part of the problem with Yik Yak. The anonymous posts lead to the possibility of cyberbullying and has already seen threats of violence, sex crimes and hate crimes. Many colleges such as Kenyon College and Colgate University want to ban it from their campuses. Norwich University in Vermont has already blocked access to Yik Yak on their college computer network.
Yik Yak has recognized the problems and is working to put more safety measures in place.
Thus, the question is: should I download Yik Yak? Is it worth all of the buzz? I’ll admit, it is fun. I downloaded it to try it out for writing this article. But it was fun only for a while. It has a lot of funny posts, but the jokes are unoriginal. I liked that it allows you to access an entire campus. So, unlike with Twitter, you don’t have to spend the time building a follower base. I also liked that Yik Yak is much more of a community forum than previous anonymous sites. However, I didn’t think it was worth the hype or worth downloading.