Section: Editorial

Staff Editorial: Yik Yak fosters unbridled toxicity

We at the Collegian have deleted Yik Yak, and we recommend that you do as well. 

The social media app Yik Yak returned last year after a four-year hiatus. The platform, for those who do not know, uses geographical targeting to create a pseudo-discussion board for people in the same five-mile radius. This aspect of Yik Yak is ostensibly useful, as some may wish to connect with others in the area or publish an opinion or announcement to the community. The trouble comes from the anonymity of users: There is no way to know who is posting what, and with the posts becoming increasingly toxic, this is a problem.

Given Kenyon’s small community and relatively isolated location, Yik Yak at Kenyon is mostly Kenyon students, allowing for discussion of campus events and controversies — and for directed cyberbullying. The app will remove reported posts that violate its guidelines, including those that are bullying or use people’s real names (when such moderation functions as intended), but posts can have an impact even if they’re only up for a few minutes. Those few minutes could allow for just one targeted post to inspire a cascade of many more, causing significant damage to the reputation and mental health of the target. 

In turn, what started as a message board filled with harmless jokes, poorly-thought-out bits and updates on social events has since morphed into a cesspool of hostility, cyberbullying and vitriol. The anonymity absolves all Kenyon students of culpability — culpability that, given the content of some posts, is direly needed. While we feel that it is important that students have access to methods of anonymous reporting, Yik Yak is not, and fundamentally cannot, fill this need, being a public platform. As such, we urge students to resist using this platform to make inflammatory statements just for entertainment. We all know the consequences of stereotypes, and at an elementary level, we all learned the consequences of bullying. If there is a real issue, address it in ways that may result in an actual solution, like reporting a concern to the Office for Civil Rights or to an organization’s disciplinary board. 

We acknowledge that the frustrations voiced on Yik Yak over the failure of institutions at Kenyon and the limitations of the Title IX process are valid, but that doesn’t mean a public, anonymous app is the place to have these discussions. There are difficult conversations we need to have as a community, and there is a need for safe spaces to voice concern — the lack of organizations like SRPA and the Peer Counselors have left a gap that needs to be filled, which may be part of the reason people are turning to the app — but Yik Yak is not this space.

Sincerely,

Salvatore, Amelia and Reid

Anonymous incident reports can be filed at https://forms.kenyon.edu/node/82

The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Amelia Carnell ’23 and Salvatore Macchione ’23 and executive director Reid Stautberg ’23. You can contact them at carnell1@kenyon.edu, macchione1@kenyon.edu, stautberg1@kenyon.edu, respectively. 

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