Social media has been used for years as means for brands to connect with their fans and show transparency, and for friends and family members to keep in touch with each other. The common denominator here is transparency—you know who the posts are coming from.
With Yik Yak, it’s a different story.
Yik Yak is a social media conversation app only available on mobile devices that lets users engage in conversation (what are called “Yaks”) with other users within a 5-mile radius. The caveat here is that the social app is completely anonymous, so app users never know who they’re interacting with. That means there’s no transparency, and that’s a big problem for parents and high schools, but more importantly, college campuses.
Unfortunately, we’re all aware of the tragedies that have occurred on college campuses over the course of the last decade and beyond, and there’s the potential that Yik Yak only compounds that problem for college campuses as they try to find ways to monitor and measure the social content being posted from within the confines of their campuses. Because of the anonymity of the social network, colleges are able to see the content being posted on campus, but they don’t know who it’s coming from, and that’ a scary thought for campus police everywhere.
That’s exactly what happened at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, where Grace Rebecca Mann was bullied on Yik Yak before being murdered, to which a fellow student was charged with first-degree murder in the case. According to the CNN article, Mann was a member of the Feminists United group on campus and had been outspoken about the school’s rugby team, which reportedly called for violence against women. From that point on, Mann was harassed on Yik Yak before allegedly being murdered by a former member of the rugby team.
And it’s not just college campuses that are affected by the anonymity of Yik Yak. Elizabeth Long, a student at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, started a Change.org petition to have Yik Yak shut down after her suicide attempt and depression was the subject of multiple Yaks throughout her school.
The biggest issue with Yik Yak is that users can say whatever they want, about whoever they want, without repercussions, for the most part. While Yik Yak does work with the authorities for major incidents, there’s still a lot of demeaning content that’s slipping below their radar, and it’s plaguing both college campuses and high schools across the world.
With that said, teens and young adults need to be smarter about the content that they’re posting—whether it be anonymous or not—and college and schools around the world need to be more aware of the social media environment that exists on their campuses.
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