Yik Yak: a social media app and phenomenon across campus. The mobile app made a quick entrance onto the California Baptist University campus after an email attempting to curb cyberbullying introduced students to the power of anonymous social commentary.
The app, which began circulating through university campuses in 2013, does not support accounts and, therefore, allows no usernames. Instead, Yik Yak compiles a feed of commentaries submitted to the app by anyone within a 1.5 mile radius. Users can up- or down-vote ”yaks,” ranking the posts in the same way one favorites on a Twitter feed; however, any yak that receives more than five negative votes is removed from the feed, leaving only those comments that are up-voted by Yik Yak users.
Yik Yak, while not inherently negative, often ends up as a kind of spawning ground for gossip and inflammatory opinions, as well as sexual innuendos and references to illegal activities. However, what has caused the most trouble in CBU’s case is the potential for cyberbullying, which CBU has strict student conduct rules against.
Trent Ward, senior marketing major and executive president of the Associated Students of California Baptist University, noted that cyberbullying is a serious offense not only because it is against school policy but because it has the potential to cause damage to those caught in the crossfire.
“As I read through the CBU feed, I found myself in shock glancing through some of the negativity and downright nasty things fellow classmates have posted,” Ward said. “I am an optimistic person, but I am also a realist and I understand what common disappointments students share. My hope is that these kinds of people realize what kind of hurt and damage they may be causing to others around them.”
Ward also noted that an alarming number of people ignore the cyberbullying that occurs on apps like these, stating that it is imperative that students refuse to stand for bullying of any kind.
“I understand that the verbally abusive will continue to abuse, the immature jokers will continue to exploit women as well as their fellow peers, and the scared will continue to hide behind their anonymous cyber wall,” Ward said, “but my hope is that this message will reach those that feel they are invincible, and that their actions have no repercussions.”
Despite the issues surrounding the app, Yik Yak has also provided a means to spread information that could be helpful to people. One student, who asked that their identity remain a secret, used the app as a means to report what they assumed was a car burglary to a feed of students who they assumed would like to know what was happening.
“I basically just said that someone’s car window was broken into, and that I called public safety,” the student said. “It turned out to be nothing, but I knew it was the right thing to do.”
No matter how people decide to use the app, Ward said he hopes students at CBU will choose to behave wisely.
“I hope we can be about building one another up, instead of tearing others apart,” Ward said. “I hope that us students would be proactive by respectfully raising our opinions, and doing something about the things we may disagree with, in hopes of making some positive change happen. There are many here willing and ready to listen and help.”