We’re all Spring Arbor students and we know that not everything written behind a keyboard about our school is positive. Social commentary thrives around college campuses and SAU is no exception. As people, we enjoy poking fun at our surroundings- it’s just what we do. It’s natural.
Meet Yik Yak. For those of you unfamiliar with the app, it’s an anonymous twitter type model that shows you what those in your geographical area are sharing. It’s localized to a few mile radius and shows you what people are saying in your area. According to the Yik Yak team, they are an “anonymous messaging app that allows users to create and view posts – called Yaks – within a 10 mile radius. Users can also expand the conversation by posting replies to existing Yaks.”
I am sure most of us are familiar with #SAUchapellive, #SAUconfessions and Facebook pages like SAU Crushes and Overheard at SAU. These formats enable students to anonymously share their personal opinions, comments and secrets because free speech is a thing and it is their right to do so.
How is Yik Yak any different? It’s designed for use at colleges. Well, while things shared can be innocent and funny, they’ve been quickly moving toward attacks such as naming floors in dorms with the comments about drinking, or the use of initials of Spring Arbor students with comments attached. USA TODAY shared that through Yik Yak, “Students are tapping, scrolling, reading and sharing any thoughts they’d like — some of them R-rated — with people nearby whom they may or may not know”. Would you feel safe or good to read someone post a yak about you in any context?”
Now to be fair, those in the Spring Arbor community on Yik Yak are quick to rid the site of hurtful or sexual comments by down voting anything that is targeting or inappropriate, but this isn’t just a SAU problem. Colleges and universities are banning the app left and right for the increased threats, racism, and cyberbulling that is publicized through Yik Yak.
“Users crack racist and sexist jokes. Posts about alcohol, drugs and sexual activity flood the feed. While some of the crude posts are slightly funny and entertaining, the majority of them could be filed as offensive or even considered hate crimes. Many students already have suffered the consequences of Yik Yak. An anonymous user will post the address of a party, the name of a drug dealer or a threat toward an individual. The results quickly outshine that user’s five minutes of anonymous fame” (USA TODAY).
Campus buildings across the nation have been shut down from Yaks that are posted threatening the safety of those in a certain building at a certain time. Many colleges are blocking that app it as trouble breaks around their campuses. SAU has not blocked the app, but those in Student Development are aware of it.
We live in an era where we can and are encouraged to make our thoughts public. The downside is that often it’s at the expense of another human being. In continuous self interest and publication of our feelings, we’ve become desensitized to the feelings of others. Another danger is the trend toward anonymity. Senior and finance major Eric Harbin calls Yik Yak the coward’s twitter. When we’re not responsible for our actions, we become much free-er with our opinions. Anonymous forums cultivate cyber bullying and Yik Yak makes it extremely easy. Do you think half of the yaks would still be posted if there was a name attached to them? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not bad ass to complain anonymously, it’s cowardly.
So what’s the point? I know that you’re tired of hearing about this and the point of this article is not to shame you or tell you that Yik Yak is the devil. Sharing our thoughts and comments is great, but what these formats also cultivate are platforms to showcase apathy, negativity, and unChrist-like behavior. As students of Spring Arbor University, we are not called to be perfect, but we are held up to a concept. That’s not saying that we’ll be condemned if we don’t keep both feet on the floor during open hours or take two apples out of the DC, it’s holding us to a higher standard because we represent Christ as well as our school and that’s one of the reasons why we’re here.
That’s the point, really. We need to be mindful of what we’re representing. Maybe that means making a change or deleting the app or maybe that just means being aware of our potential to hurt others. We’re all free to share what we want, but how are we cultivating kindness in our community? How can we set ourselves apart?
By Sarah Beardslee and Tania Parsons