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Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student


COLUMN: The anonymous Yik Yak

The social media app Yik Yak has recently come under fire in several situations at ?different colleges.

This all began when abusive anonymous postings about specific people caused the victims to contact Yik Yak and demand them to reveal the identities of the ?defamers.

However, Yik Yak has diligently protected the users because the complaints did not violate conditions in their ?privacy policy.

It is difficult to talk about Yik Yak because, on one side, it represents a guarantee — or near-guarantee — of privacy in a digital age when everything, from one’s geographical location to online presence, is tracked.

Paradoxically, it could be seen as a bastion of individualism in the sense that, unlike Facebook or Twitter, one does not feel compelled to portray oneself in a certain way.

One does not have to construe oneself or one’s experience to conform to some preconceived notion of how one should live.

There are no profiles to build. Nobody updates other people about their lives on Yik Yak. It’s pure expression, without the paranoid narcissism of Facebook. Then, on the other side, anonymity on the Internet brings out the worst in people because they know there will be no repercussions for anything they say.

Look at any comments section anywhere.

A majority of Yik Yak’s content consists of racial slurs, misogynistic comments, anti-Semitic diatribes, you name it.

Any relatively benign comment tends to be down-voted immediately because, when you go on Yik Yak, you go on to look at all the ridiculous things on it. Then, wanting to be included, you think of something clever, use some pun, turn of phrase or pithy pseudo-philosophical comment and post that.

You don’t necessarily believe what you posted, but it’s clever. And because it is clever you believe you’ll get 50 up-votes and you’ll be able to tell your friends, “Hey, I got 50 up-votes!”

For the people who have been victims of Yik Yak abuse, it’s a rough situation to be in and certainly anonymity is no justification to be cruel and unfeeling human beings.

However, Yik Yak is perhaps part of the new reality we’re entering and adaptations must be made to cope with that fact.

At its basic level, Yik Yak is publicly generated entertainment. To call it social media implies there must be some sort of social interaction that occurs but, since the users are anonymous, it is essentially impossible for sustained ?interaction.

Facebook and Twitter, in myriad ways, allow this. But with Yik Yak you don’t know if you interact with users more than once, if you consider “Yakking” and commenting interaction at all.

Perhaps celebrities can teach us something about dealing with Yik Yak. They become embroiled in scandals largely generated and expounded by media ?itself.

At some point, they have to ignore what is said about them so they can live their lives.

Yik Yak abuse is just another type of sensationalism created for entertainment and eventually, if Yik Yak lives long, it will result in another psychological adaptation that started with Myspace and still continues today.

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