Students say Yik Yak gives users an anonymous outlet to express themselves

Yik Yak was first launched in 2013 before shutting down in 2017 because of low user engagement and criticism regarding cyberbullying and threats. (Collegian Media Group)

Yik Yak is a free app founded by two college students that has spread through college campuses around the world. The reborn social media platform is an outlet of live feed posts from people in the surrounding area, posting whatever they would like anonymously. Since coming back, the app has brought a source of news and gossip to its users.

“I would explain it as an anonymous Twitter where people say almost whatever they want without personal repercussions,” Frank Schleimer, fifth-year senior in human resource management and political science, said.

Students like Madalyn Manning, senior in early childhood education, say they enjoy flipping through the yaks or posts from time to time for entertainment from the people around them.

“Most everything is in a joking manner, so I think college kids are harmless on this app. It’s just another source of entertainment,” Manning said.

While some use the app to talk about gossip or rumors, many write yaks about the funny stuff they have heard, thought, seen or happened to them.

“I do yak, and usually, it’s about complaints about class or a funny thought I had,” Schleimer said.

The app has given college students a way to come together and express themselves through sharing, sending, talking about posts or posting yaks themselves.

“College kids are definitely using it as a way to express how they feel about school and life or to make jokes about something or someone,” Schleimer said.

Yik Yak lets users up-like and down-like posts so people can see the most popular yaks locally and nationwide. Although some enjoy reading through the most popular, others find live stream posts are more relatable to them.

“I think my favorite yaks to read are just the random ones. I have enjoyed finding the weird ones and sending them to my friends,” Paige Anderson, sophomore in psychology, said. “Sometimes people post incredibly relatable things regarding college life, and those are great.”

The app carries both positive and negative effects on people and topics talked about. However, students say the positivity of being real with one another outweighs the negatives.

“I think it brings us closer together because we are able to be unfiltered for the most part and find commonality with each other,” Manning said.

Because the app is anonymous, posts are not always accurate and can negatively affect topics and people talked about on the app.

“It is just fun to pass time scrolling through it with my friends,” Anderson said. “I do think there is a negative side, however. Because of the anonymity of the site, people can post whatever they want without consequence. This has led to a few name drops and potentially the spread of false information that can come back to hurt someone’s reputation.”

In 2017, the app was shut down because of low user engagement and growing criticism around anonymous cyberbullying and threats. Since the revival of the app, some concerns about the removal of the app have come up again.

“I think it should be able to outlast backlash as it’s still very popular and it seems they have some measures to mitigate any online harassment or bullying, but obviously some things slip through the cracks,” Schleimer said.

For now, students say they enjoy using the outlet to anonymously relate, post, like and read with others, offering an escape from the typical social constructs of normal social media.

“I think it’s funny and a different way to pass time,” Schleimer said.