Yik Yak, a free social media app that lets users post anonymous “yaks" is sweeping Adventist college campuses.
Launched in November 2013, the app allows users to view and respond to the brief posts with upvote/downvote capabilities built in as well. Yik Yak differs from its confessional app predecessors like Whisper or Secret in that it limits interactions to a 1.5 mile radius. This twist has fueled the explosion of the app's popularity on college campuses, where users can utilize the app as an anonymous bulletin board. Although it impossible to comment or upvote/downvote posts without being on location, Yik Yak users can activate the “Peek” function to see “yaks” in other locations with a geographical search like those used in many navigation apps.
Yik Yak has caused a stir on Adventist campuses as more users have discovered it. Andrews University, Oakwood University, Pacific Union College, Southern Adventist University, Southwestern Adventist University, Union College, and Walla Walla University all have active Yik Yak communities. At the time of the writing of this article, all those campuses had new posts as recently as one hour ago, and some campuses had posts as recently as seven seconds ago.
While many Adventist campuses have active yakkers, not everyone is excited about this new social media trend. Some see it as another platform that encourages cyber-bullying.
PUC college student Bradon Schwarz wrote an open letter on his Facebook encouraging students to delete the app. “If you were to read some of the things being said on ‘Yik yak’ in the PUC area, you probably wouldn’t believe that you were anywhere near a Christian college,” he wrote. “I admit that it can sometimes be funny, but when you realize that the things that are being said are actually hurting people, it changes things.”
Although his Facebook post got over 200 likes, not everybody agreed with Schwarz’s words, taking to Yik Yak to express opinions of their own. Many of the responses could have been classified as cyber-bullying themselves.
Walla Walla University Chaplain Paddy McCoy used his weekly chaplains newsletter on October 24 to encourage students to delete the app as well. “It concerns me when I hear about students, or members of our campus community, being cyber-bullied or saying nasty things about others,” he said.
McCoy cited several Bible texts to support his opinion, including Proverbs 12:8-9. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
Following McCoy’s newsletter, WWU banned the app from the university’s WiFi.
Not every university has responded to the app in this fashion. Southern Adventist University encouraged students to use the app during their yearly InTents week of prayer to post anonymous questions for the discussion.
In an article published on October 14 on the website Southern Accent, SAU Chaplin Brennon Kirstein spoke positively about the app. “Some people may feel more free to ask or to participate with our topic anonymously and we thought ‘what a better venue to use for that.’ Let’s do an experiment,” said Kirstein.
Although many people responded positively to Kirstein’s experiment, not everybody was excited about using Yik Yak to communicate. SAU’s campus ministries is unsure if they will continue using the app in the future.
There is a wide range of comments posted on Yik Yak–many of them are innocuous.
One Oakwood University student posted: “Didn’t go to sleep til five slept through both of my alarms missed 2 classes.”
However, some posts take on a more serious note. An Andrews University student posted this: “Making friends here sucks. Always gotta pay that extra dollar [or] however much for a take out tray. –lonely freshman.”
Several students responded to the post, encouraging the ‘lonely freshman’ to meet people on his or her hall or in classes.
An SAU student used Yik Yak as a means for support. “This is a strange thing to say on yak, but my grandmother was just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Prayer is needed.”
The post received 50 upvotes and several kind responses.
That being said, even though many of the things being posted on the Adventist campuses are harmless, many of them are also of an explicit nature, focusing on sex, drugs, and rude jokes.
Yik Yak creators, 23-year old college graduates Tyler Droll and Brook Buffington, have launched several features to try to prevent app misuse. If a post receives enough downvotes it is removed. In this way, the app is self-regulating; Yik Yak employees also monitor the app. In addition, all of the high schools in the United States have been geofenced, making the app unusable on those campuses. Droll and Buffington hope this will reduce cyber-bullying.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6367