Yik Yak: Northwestern’s Alternative News Source?


by Catherine Zhangphoto 1

I just had a scary thought. What if the Chronicle isn’t Northwestern’s alternative news source. What if Yik Yak is? Haha.

Yik Yak has been around for nearly a year now. Come November, we will be celebrating its first anniversary!

On some campuses, the anonymous posting app has been on the decline, though at Northwestern, it seems it still has plenty of steam. This leads me to my main question: why is Yik Yak still popular at Northwestern?

The app’s already been embargoed at many schools across the country, such as Texas, Vermont, and Illinois. The claim? Cyber-bullying is magnified, intensified by anonymous antagonism. The defense? An amusing, harmless app just like Twitter.

But here, our little society is obsessed with it; I refrained from downloading it until a few weeks ago when my friend showed me the Hot tab. I spent the entire dinner ignoring her, instead laughing loudly at her screen.

Since then, I have downloaded it and scanned it casually a few times a day.

We yak because we thrive on inside jokes that only Northwestern students would understand. When something happens on campus, people yak. We yak about the super loud clap of thunder that terrorized campus a few weeks ago, the mysterious aircrafts which eventually revealed a visit from the president, or the parties that pop up every weekend.

Yik Yak is like Twitter, but anonymous, meaning that it is unlimited in every way, except geographical location. Even then, the Peek tab allows us to see what’s happening on campuses across the nation.

The problem (one of many) is just that nothing is verifiable; says one Yik Yak user, “Rumors on yikyak are the reason I have trust issues.” The very fact that I cannot cite this seems to prove my point.

This app is often hilarious, as is evidenced by my woops and giggles in the dining hall that one evening. But more often it’s extremely offensive, in every way possible: abelist, gendered, racist, or just plain ignorant.

Every once in a while there’s a comment that blows my mind or says what no one else is brave enough to admit.

You know how everyone randomly thinks horrible thoughts every once in a while? The abominable type of thought that makes you reel and tell yourself how scummy you can be. Yik Yak allows you to broadcast these thoughts to everyone else; upvotes and downvotes not only demonstrate how many other people agree with your scandalously offensive thoughts, but also allow your Yak to make its way into the Hot tab, where it has the capacity to hurt more people.

So why do people choose to be anonymous? We have posited this identity choice, or rather, lack of identity choice, in two different lights:

1) Anonymous individuals do not like to be blamed, or held accountable for their opinions and actions. Thus, when it comes to issues like cyber-bullying or hateful internet comments, they do not hold back, because there are no consequences to suffer. It’s easier to say awful things when you don’t have to look someone in the eye. These anonymous individuals are not brave enough to reveal themselves.

2) Anonymous folks who pay it forward or compliment others have nothing to gain; they choose not to take credit for something they’ve done.

In the context of Yik Yak, the former seems more prevalent.

I used to be anonymous; in my sophomore year of high school, I started an anonymous blog that was meant to provide social commentary about high school issues. Even though no one knew who I was, I was still cautious to stay in the middle of the road, like a presidential candidate. But that’s dumb.

I also had an anonymous hate blog in 7th grade. But that’s a story for another day.

At the end of the day, Yik Yak is an evolving app that follows closely behind the ever-changing dynamic of Northwestern campus.

For example, during midterms:

“Procrastinating so hard I took the time to safely eject my USB”

“Procrastinating so hard that I read through Apple’s Terms and Conditions before accepting them”

“Glad to see that senioritis has followed me into my junior year of college”

“So much procrastination I ran out of people in my area on tinder. Guess it’s time to raise it from 15 to 20 miles”

So why are we still yakking? Maybe we use it simply because we are constantly looking for new forms of social media to take over and exhaust. Maybe not. Maybe we love getting to say what we’ve been holding back, now that we don’t have to face the repercussions. Maybe not. Maybe we’re all just looking for a Yakarma boost. Probably.

It’s all a matter of whether Yik Yak is just a fad that has overstayed its welcome or if it’s here to stay.

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