Yik Yak: Problems of Anonymous Posting

Another semester has started at Montana State and students are getting back into the swing of school and their social lives. With it comes the use of social media and in particular, the use of an app called Yik Yak. The concept of the app is similar to Twitter’s in that you can post 150 character blurbs of thought. But it’s anonymous — the user doesn’t have to log on to anything, and all of the “yaks” are centralized on the main feed by location. It’s like MSU Confessions but on a “cooler” place than Facebook.

Yik Yak can be amusing most of the time. If you’ve suffered from the food at Miller, or from the construction going on outside of the residence halls, or if you’re one of the students complaining about living in a single gender residence hall (looking at you, Langford, Hannon and Hapner), then you are not alone. An entire host of people just like you are going through the same thing. Of those people facing the same odds, there are some who are hilarious, peeved and really good at articulating their thoughts in less than 150 characters.

The idea of being connected as one big Bobcat community is alluring. If a student is reading Plato at midnight in the semi-dark and someone revs their engine obnoxiously outside, people are posting about it twenty seconds later. People can be assured that a few peers will also be drinking extra coffee in the morning because they were finishing homework, or because that engine woke them up. The allure for students, and especially freshmen, to be a part of something bigger when they feel small has them flocking towards the mint green app with a Yak on it. Yik Yak creates a community for for students who want to be able to post similar experiences anonymously.

Students are also using Yik Yak to give a shout out when they see someone attractive on campus or in class. Yik Yak allows anonymous flirting for those plagued by the fear of rejection. For the most part, the “yaks” are shy and sweet, but when they start to become more aggressive, does the Yik Yak community need to stand up against bullies and creeps? Danger also comes along with the anonymity of Yik Yak.

Anonymity is afforded to the author but not always to the subject of their “yaks.” There have been  “yaks” calling someone out by name and spreading nasty rumors about them. Others discuss another person’s sexuality and by extension, their partners. Being behind a screen does not afford one the privilege to slur and slander other people. It should not allow one to destroy the esteem of your RA and make her out to be an object and nothing else. It should not allow one to call out people who got too drunk at a party or who asked a neighbor to turn down their music because these are gross and inappropriate violations of their privacy. At Montana State every student should be able to expect privacy and respect. A student should not have to worry about being made fun of or talked crudely about on such a public level because of what they look like or what they did at (or after) the party they attended on Friday night.

A majority of the time the “yaks” are funny. Keep flirting anonymously, so long as it is respectful, students of Montana State. It’s cute and could even work. Don’t stop talking about the side effects of eating at Miller because it’s true and funny. Don’t stop laughing together, don’t stop complimenting each other and don’t stop being ridiculous college kids together because collective similar experiences should be shared. But students need to start thinking their “yaks” through. Respect people’s privacy and their equal right to anonymity because otherwise the fun will be ruined.