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The Northerner

Students hide behind social media platform

Emily Osterholz, Reporter

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The app known as Yik Yak allows users to post anonymously, and has been generating a lot of bad press among universities. While several colleges have banned the app from their wifi networks, NKU’s “yaks” are more entertaining than offensive.

Kendell Klein, a junior majoring in criminal justice, initially downloaded Yik Yak because she heard a few of her friends talking about the funny posts and wanted to know more about it.

“When I first heard about Yik Yak, I thought it seemed kind of pointless, but after I tried it, I got really addicted to it,”Klein said. “I would open it just to do a quick check and would end up spending an hour or two scrolling through the posts, kind of like Facebook.”

Klein found that the majority of yaks were amusing; most students chatted about homework, weather and food or shared embarrassing moments from their lives.

“One of the most hilarious yaks I remember is ‘I didn’t notice the ice patch that was in my driveway this morning, so as I’m walking to my car I slip and my feet fly up into the air, then I slid more than halfway down my driveway on my butt’,” Klein said. “It just made me laugh because I would totally do the same thing.”

Launched in November 2013, Yik Yak can be used to discover events within a 1.5 mile radius and users can upvote or downvote posts, similar to Reddit. The New York Times has dubbed it a digital “bathroom stall wall” in which people can anonymously write anything.

Media Informatics and EMB major, Jessica McGinnis, is also fond of Yik Yak because it’s easy to use and has a certain charm, as well as its own cult following.

She enjoys being able to post anonymously; no matter how silly a post sounds users don’t have to worry about anybody thinking they’re crazy.

“There was one that I saw a while ago that was really funny; ‘high school is so judgy, then you get to college and you see a man on a scooter wearing a snuggie, and you think that is a smart man.’ I loved it, I even put it in a presentation for one of my classes,” McGinnis said.

The app is growing on a daily basis and is currently active at more than 1,000 colleges worldwide.

 

“We are so exposed; with the rise of social media our identity is everywhere,” Renee Human, Media Informatics Program Director, said. “With Yik Yak, I think the anonymity gives students a voice and a power of hierarchy in the classroom.”

The thing that makes Yik Yak so popular could be what destroys it.

According to Slate.com, Eastern Michigan University students logged on to Yik Yak to insult and sexually harass their professors. The College of Idaho outlawed Yik Yak because of racist messages posted by users. Utica College has blocked the app from its wireless network because students taunted trans people.

“It’s a double edged sword,” Sara Drabik, assistant professor and director of Norse Media, said.  “While it could be a great way to let people know what’s happening right then on campus and get ideas out there, it can also can be detrimental because people aren’t always responsible to what they say.”

She said there are no responsibilities and no repercussions with Yik Yak. Colleges are ultimately powerless to deal with havoc situations that it has been causing.    

“Some students could just be trying to ruffle feathers and get more people to upvote that post. Outlandish things tend to get a lot more attention,” Drabik said. “The temptation to do that is definitely there. It’s like a giant soap box, where you can go, stand up and start to shout whatever you want.”

The app includes a set of rules, warning users against cyber-bullying and posting offensive yaks. It has a zero tolerance policy about posting people’s private information and allows people to report such yaks. If posts are continually reported, the person will be suspended.

If a yak receives five downvotes it will get deleted from the news feeds and a moderation team works to review reported yaks.

In addition to the virtual high school and middle school fences that block the app through wifi or data plans, Yik Yak recently added filters and a new warning messages that pop up when users type certain sensitive words.

“It’s an app, it’s a technology, it’s not good or bad, it’s how people use it,” Drabik said.

“Perhaps if more people on the app downvoted the negative comments, it could turn it into something that could be used, overall, as a positive force in our society,” Drabik continued. “I think the more people shun it and say ‘oh, it’s bad’ and don’t get involved in it, the more you’re allowing the folks who are using it negatively to completely take it over.”

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Students hide behind social media platform