“No profile, no password, it’s all anonymous.”
This is the motto of Yik Yak, a new app generating quite a bit of chatter on campus.
The Yik Yak team has already faced scrutiny from college campuses, high schools and middle schools that said they believe the app interferes with anti-bullying policies.
Yik Yak involves anonymously posting “yaks” that become visible to all users within a five-mile radius. There is also an option to pay an additional fee in order to reach a wider span of users.
“It’s basically an anonymous Twitter, so people can say what’s on their mind without having to deal with the repercussions and having their names attached to it,” sophomore writing major Emily Redmond said.
Yik Yak users can comment on posts, as well as ‘upvoting’ and ‘downvoting’ posts based on personal opinion.
The app, which now has over 100,000 users, was developed in 2013 by two Furman University students, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington.
According to Droll and Buffington, the app was intended to connect college students through anonymous local posts.
The controversy surrounding Yik Yak’s emphasis on anonymity and potential use in cyberbullying incidents has made headlines across national media outlets, from Fox New York to the LA Times and USA Today.
Users under 17 are no longer permitted to download the app and many high schools and middle schools have instituted restrictions to prevent its use.
According to Auburn University’s school newspaper, the app was already popular at the University of Georgia, Auburn and Ole Miss.
The app hit TCU’s campus in early March. Hundreds of posts are made each day for the area around the university.
Some posts inquire about events on and off campus, while others discuss everything from Greek organizations to individual students.
“Yaks” have also targeted specific fraternities and sororities in the university community. Some posts attack fraternity members’ masculinity, saying that certain male fraternities are “hav[ing] a Nicholas Cage movie marathon Friday night,” “like to share beds with eachother (sic),” “take zumba classes,” or other activities not viewed masculine by Yik Yak posters.
Individuals are also subject to scrutiny. Many posts begin with “Biggest slut at the school…GO!” followed by comments from users that usually refer to people by their first and last names.
Some students said they were troubled by the potential harm the app could cause within the university community.
“Especially since our school’s so small and everybody knows everybody, individuals are targeted,” sophomore nursing major Catherine Witte said.
“I’ve been personally targeted with my full name on the app, along with several other people that I know, and I honestly think Yik Yak is a tool for cyberbullying and I don’t think any good is going to come from it on a college campus,” she said.
Yik Yak’s developers say that the app needs anonymity.
“Anonymity is powerful, for better or for worse,” begins a post on the Yik Yak website’s blog. “People ask us all the time why we felt the need to make Yik Yak anonymous, and the answer is quite simple. It gives people a blank slate to work from, effectively removing all preconceptions about them.”
The app’s community-driven model means the content of the posts is the user’s responsibility, which has prompted concern on a number of fronts.
As one local user recently posted:
“Yik Yak may be anonymous but it may drive someone to end their (sic) life. Are rude words really worth that?”