Janet Zhu

At this point, the majority of campus has used, encountered or dismissed the relatively new social media platform, Yik Yak. Especially through peak midterm season, much of the student population has taken to checking “up-votes,” stalking the “hot” feed for the funniest yaks and trying to break the 50k yakarma barrier as a reprieve from seemingly endless studying.

Since Yik Yak launched in November 2013, it has become wildly popular at colleges across the country. In the app, users share their thoughts, make jokes and poke fun at other colleges in 200 characters or fewer. Like Whisper and Secret, the posts are anonymous, but Yik Yak has a distinct light-hearted tone and comical environment. It also offers a highly contextual experience, as people can only see those yaks, the name that Yik Yak uses for its posts, written within a 1.5 mile radius of the user — large enough for a campus-wide experience.

From its launch, the app took an anonymous, comical spin on Twitter’s posting structure. However, not too surprisingly, the app has frequently been abused. The anonymity of yaks has allowed some users to bully, harass or threaten others. In part, Yik Yak has combated this problem by using geo-fencing, blocking out high school and middle school grounds to increase security, as well as major airports and a large number of U.S. federal government buildings.

Unfortunately, any given user may come by the offensive, bigoted yaks that plague the service. This is especially the case here at Georgetown, where a service that should be used as an outlet for escaping the stresses and pressures of homework, exams and college life is hijacked by users making hateful and hurtful statements.

As Yik Yak rises in popularity, it becomes more and more important that we do our best to keep using the app in good spirit. When aggressive, sexual and plainly rude comments fill the yak feed, nobody wins. Rather, it perpetuates a culture of hateful comments toward anyone unfortunate enough to be found in the target of these distasteful yaks. Being conscious of what we yak is the best way not only to keep Yik Yak available to us for a long, long time, but also to get the most out of the app.

That’s not to say that stronger jokes and roasts can’t be funny when used in good-natured humor and not pointedly or wildly offensive. We’re all adults here. Full disclosure, my personal favorite yak was: “Took my pen apart and put it back together, got engineering degree from American University.”
Friendly fire from university to university, fraternity to fraternity or any light-hearted joke or roast every now and again, taken with a grain of salt, are what make Yik Yak the wildly popular app that it has become.

But we also need to make an effort to be conscientious when posting yaks. Earlier this year, a Towson student was arrested when jokingly threatening on Yik Yak to shoot at students at the school. After he was arrested, he told the officers that he sincerely was being facetious; however, the impact was severe.

In line with Georgetown University’s set of ideals, we need to remind ourselves to be considerate of others and what others may think of what we yak. While some jokes are very easily recognized as just that — jokes — others are not so clear.

The bottom line is that we need to know when a joke has gone too far. So far, Yik Yak has been an outlet for all our stresses, an invaluable resource considering all the pressures put on us during our years in college. We can keep it that way as long as we remain good-spirited and responsible while racking up yakarma.

Brian Piatigorski is a freshman in the College. 

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One Comment

  1. Fedoralover420 says:

    My favorite yak to date: “The Hoya wrote another stupid article about YikYak, so I’m writing another Yak about the Hoya. F**k the Hoya”.

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