Opinion: Yik Yak: anonymity versus bullying

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Is Yik Yak the newest anonymous version of cyberbullying? With anonymity basically guaranteed (all but for a geographical region), people have the ability to say anything they please on this social media platform without consequence. It is this privacy that has turned Yik Yak into a virtual bullying playground, one that is spreading in popularity all over the K-State campus.

What is it?

Yik Yak is an app that can be downloaded on most smartphones. It is geographically-based, meaning all of the information and postings a user sees will be local to wherever they are. It is a way to “join the conversation,” and “share your thoughts with people around you while keeping your privacy,” according to Yik Yak’s website. Users can post anything they want, and the information usually pertains to a more local perspective.

For example, on a K-State football game day, much of the posts seen will be some clever way of letting the other team know they are going to lose: EMAW!

The problem

I’m all for school spirit and having a good laugh, but some of the posts are downright disgusting. With privacy comes recklessness: nobody is held accountable for what they say online and because of this, scrolling through Yik Yak is often disturbing. What’s “hot” and “new” to someone can be offensive and hurtful to someone else.

As I scroll through Yik Yak while writing this, I haven’t made it a page down without reading about some college student’s sloppy sexual experience. If I want to read about sex, I’ll pick up a copy of Cosmopolitan. I’m not interested in your sexcapades (that are usually degrading in one way or another) and your interest in receiving an “up” arrow because of it.

The consequences of cyberbullying include, but are not limited, to skipping school, poor grades, health problems and lower self-esteem, according to stopbullying.gov. The bigger issue with this kind of material on Yik Yak is that the constant negative feed of information can be accessed 24/7. Someone who might already be insecure can, at any time, pull up Yik Yak and feel worse.

Another big problem with Yik Yak is its locality. I have seen instances of posts blatantly about different individuals. These posts have remarked about reputations, races, sexes and all sorts of offensive things. Because the only people using it are in the Manhattan area, it is easy for someone to get on the app and eventually read a post about themselves.

A reputation can be destroyed with one false post. It has become as easy as sending a text to write a lie about a fellow student, post it online and have thousands of other students see it. Does that make it the victim’s job to stand up and say what was written about them false? What’s more, who is going to believe them? It is unfair for such comments to put on an app where anyone, including your peers, can see.

In a column describing her experiences with cyber bullies, Grace King addresses the common question of “Why don’t you just log out?”

“There are a few reasons that this won’t work in cases like this,” King said. “If you were being bullied in real life, would you just stop going to the place you were bullied? Would you stop going to school or work? It’s a temporary fix, one that in the long term just isn’t a feasible option … everything is online. Job applications, contact with friends and family, homework. There is very little that isn’t Internet based.”

The solution

Yik Yak is different than most social media sites because of the mask students can hide behind while posting content. Most students keep Facebook and Twitter feeds relatively clean, due to the looming possibility of future employers viewing their profiles and making judgments when looking to hire. Yik Yak is special though. There is no way to police content, and to do so would be a violation of the First Amendment.

However, intentionally posting something that results in the battery of someone else’s mental health is not fair. It’s easy to say that if Yik Yak offends people, they should just stay off of it. I’m not suggesting that students keep it clean either. Sure, I don’t want to read about half of the populations sex lives, but as long as it’s not said in a way that would completely disrespect and offend the other person, go for it.

All I’m saying is be cognizant of what you say before you say it; it could make a whole world of difference to someone.

Kelly Iverson is a senior in mass communications.

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