Posts with tag secret

An anonymous stream of hurt

Yik Yak may be the most offensive app you ever install on your smartphone




When I heard about Yik Yak earlier, I was intrigued. The application, available now and released earlier this year for Apple iOS devices and Android devices, is simple – and familiar – enough: a continuous stream of posts that users of the app can reply to, favorite, or down vote. The twist? It’s entirely anonymous, and posts only show up if you’re within a 1.5 mile radius of the one who made the post. No user names, no profiles, no profile pictures – just a stream of untagged,  completely anonymous – and uncensored – posts.

If that sounds familiar, I’m not surprised – the concept is essentially exactly the same as that of the Google Ventures funded Secret application, which allowed for the same concept with a similar execution. Unlike Secret, however, which didn’t find any degree of success outside of Silicone Valley, Yik Yak is enjoying a huge boom of attention all across America, specifically around – you guessed it – schools. For whatever reason, it appears that if you give college aged students access to a totally anonymous, uncensored stream, it’s pretty likely to turn into an anonymous stream of hurt.

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That’s a really tame example of the sort of posts one can find while looking through a local Yik Yak stream, especially when browsing through the application in a college town like the one that I’ve spent the last couple of years around. On top of simply crazy posts above, Yik Yak is home to offensive and hateful posts towards women, homosexuals, teachers, undergraduate students, older individuals, etcetera and so forth – and that’s just from spending twenty minutes browsing through my feed.

And perhaps predictably, the negativity that Yik Yak is shepherding is having an effect – The Boston Globe this week ran an article earlier this week chronicling how Asian American college student Jamie Ciocon downloaded the application only to become “repulsed” by an avalanche of demeaning posts about Asian Americans.1

Yik Yak founders Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, two college undergraduate students, say that they’ve created Yik Yak as a means to give college students a platform. While it’s important that these sort of applications exist to promote freedom of speech, it’s also important to take a look at how these communities can build a sphere of influence around cyber bullying. Cyber bullying has become a hot topic issue these days as government officials and policy officials have continuously debated the need for anti-cyber bullying laws. Yik Yak, Secret, and other anonymous communities those significant roadblocks to these initiatives as it can be near impossible to find the origin of the posts under certain circumstances.