By Allegra Maldonado
Last year Kenyon students were introduced to the phenomenon Kenyon Confessions: a social media platform for students to anonymously share their innermost thoughts. Typically these posts related tales of melodramatic love lives, post-grad job-hunting difficulties or pleas for academic and romantic advice. Recently, however, a newer means of expression is sweeping across campus faster than the Kenyon Krud: Yik Yak.
The app, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary this November, is present at over 250 colleges according to its website. Though Kenyon Confessions and Yik Yak ostensibly serve the same purpose of publishing anonymous thoughts, the content of these social media outlets differs greatly. But Yik Yak’s popularity is still growing; by contrast, my friend who’s currently abroad artfully suggested that Kenyon Confessions may go the way of the VHS.
Yik Yak designed by two Furman University graduates, seeks to give individuals the instant visibility of a well-developed Twitter handle without the hassle of making one. But this power may be placed in the wrong hands. The creators have taken notice of some of the app’s negative uses and have taken steps to prevent some of them, although seemingly unsuccessfully.
Unlike Kenyon Confessions, Yik Yak is unpatrolled. There is no elusive “man behind the screen” who makes the final decisions. People’s names, Greek organizations and nearby universities are trash-talked through largely baseless, if not outright false, claims and there is no way to counter this except for users to report inappropriate posts after they are already published. Though opportunities — up-voting, down-voting and commenting — exist as ways to encourage the “good” posts and reprimand the “bad,” only so much can be done. Negative thoughts, even if dissented, are still circulating.
If we want to take a more holistic approach to reviewing the newest fad, we must take into account its good qualities. There are certain aspects of Kenyon that the student body shares in experiencing — Peirce food, academic stresses, friendship qualms, playful jeering of Denison — and when we see these reiterated someplace we all have access to, our ties as a student body are reinforced. Conversely, when the student body agrees on a post’s malice, they can combine their support to down-vote the post into negative numbers.
While I admit it can be entertaining to scroll through the numerous posts and put in your two cents — we all need a way to occupy ourselves while waiting for class to start — when we do so we encourage the mindless student-to-student brutality that Yik Yak perpetrates.
Kenyon is supposed to be a safe space, somewhere we are sheltered from the vindictiveness of the real world before we must venture into it. But Yik Yak undermines Kenyon’s protective bubble when identities — whether sexual, racial or religious — are attacked. We are supposed to be accepting and high-minded students, but Yik Yak seems to make us into vultures feeding off others’ insecurities and constantly scavenging for our next prey.
So do yourself and others a favor. Get off Yik Yak.
Allegra Maldonado ’17 is an international studies major from Indianapolis. She can be contacted at email@example.com
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