Anonymous posts gone wrong

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

YikYik, the anonymous community-based messaging app that was taken off the App Store four years ago, is back and controversial as ever.

This app has become immensely popular on Tech’s campus, as well as many other college campuses across the US, as a way to anonymously write your inner thoughts, opinions and start drama.

The premise of YikYak started as a way to anonymously connect with your community within a five-mile radius. It is similar to Twitter in its posting, commenting and scrolling features, but a major difference is that unlike Twitter where every user has a traceable username and account, no one knows who exactly is making the posts and comments on YikYak.

This has made YikYak a prime breeding ground for drama, bullying, false information and discriminatory posts that are harmful to the Tech community.

Going on YikYak is like playing a big game of “Telephone” to get news about what’s happening on campus.

Facts can easily get misconstrued and spread like wildfire across the feeds of anyone with the app depending on how many upvotes or downvotes the post gets.

While some of the posts are funny or relatable, a lot of the posts are insulting, concerning, defamatory or a combination of all three.

Greek life appears to be the most popular target of posts on Tech’s YikYak, with many of the claims posted being unjustifiable or seeming to come out of nowhere as a way to negatively affect the reputation of a particular fraternity of sorority.

It is disturbing reading the things that are posted on that app and then realizing that they were made by your peers, which has caused some to feel very uncomfortable or even unsafe.

YikYak has become an easy way to target groups of people without getting caught, which not only brings the ethics of the app into question but also the underlying reason for why people feel compelled to say such things when given an anonymous identity.

With that being said, we do not think that the app itself is all to blame.

The creators definitely need to improve their algorithm to weed out harmful posts, but at the end of the day it is the individual messages that are causing problems that need to be addressed.

The act of posting on YikYak feels like screaming into the void as a way to get attention, which definitely needs some further unpacking.

Maybe it helps some users feel less alone or perhaps some people find it relieving or exciting to anonymously post their inner thoughts — whatever the case may be, the activity on this app has something to say about the reality of the internal struggles and lack of support systems that students feel at Tech to be able to be open and talk about certain things.

While many problems arose because of this app, the reason it initially got taken down wasn’t because of the harmful comments made but lack of user engagement.

Even though not having to make an account is great for short-term user engagement, this has also turned into the Achilles heel of the app’s long-term success because people have no lasting ties to the app.

People are bound to get bored, and just like any fad, the app will probably fade away.

But in the meantime, please be mindful of what you post and the potential harms and impact it will have on others.