Starting in the fall semester of 2021, a new app quickly hit top charts among college students – YikYak. The social media platform gives emoji pseudonyms to all of its users and allows them to comment and share posts to a local community of the app users completely anonymously.
Iit didn’t take long before students showed the app to their friends as a way to anonymously share and communicate about the college experience here at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Though the idea seems enticing and important, the damage created by the app has outweighed all of its advantages.
College students tend to be a slightly more mature version of high school seniors – or so you would think. Most college students – especially those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – tend to lack the social skills to understand how society works and the consequences of their actions.
Giving them access to an app of this scale and power was just a disaster in the making.
By the spring semester of 2022, it is fair to say that the majority of students on campus had the app or knew about the app. There were multiple posts made every minute that talk about classes, homework and even the toxic hookup culture on campus. The biggest issue with this app however is the lack of consequences.
Due to the apps anonymity, anyone on campus could spread reputation ruining rumors about a students sex life, social life and health.
Within the first week of school starting this fall, UNR’s YikYak already received hundreds of sexually themed comments and posts targeting mostly women. The app’s biggest issue is the lack of censorship and protection over those who become victims to it. The posts mostly consist of trashing other students’ looks, outfits, personalities and trends that in result cause students to be more depressed, self-conscious, afraid of the campus’s environment and the people around them.
Another issue that arises here is the amount of content being posted. It is fair to say that the majority of YikYak posts are built off simple lies and manipulated experiences. When a post with sexual, social and trending themes get upvoted, other students begin to feel left out of the college experience they desire.
If the majority of posts on the social media app were true, it could easily be assumed that most college students on campus are hooking up, drinking, doing drugs and having endless fun with friends all day every day. Seeing these posts when a student is simply studying or trying to enjoy time for themselves can easily further their fear of missing out.
If we are looking at college students from a grounded perspective, the majority of them are not consistently out every night trying to do something incredibly fun. A lot of students still spend their nights and days at work, working on homework, understanding their mental health issues and simply trying to relax before the next day.
The app’s uprising has caused many students to feel out of place and sometimes even attacked my anonymous peers. Some students have expressed a decline in their mental health due to the app, which surprisingly created a popular persona for them. The persona would receive a mix of emotions and spiral into a new hybrid of cyberbullying and bullying in person.
It’s hard to know who your buillies and enemies on YikYak are when they can be anyone on campus. It discourages students from being active in social events on campus due to fear.
YikYak as an app itself should not be banned on campus. It is a great way for a community of students to come together and share how different the college experience is for everyone, and it can prove to a student that they are not alone in their struggles.
Anyone can say anything on the app without consequences except the person who is targeted. It is a scary thought to understand. If it is abused too much, it could lead to a disastrous event.
Instead of spreading rumors and lies, can students contribute to the app in a way that can have a positive effect on everyone who sees it?
Gabe Kanae can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.