Many children of the early 2000s will recall the app YikYak. Having come into popularity in the early 2010s, YikYak is an app that allows people to post anonymously on a message board for anyone within a five-mile radius to read.
As one can imagine, the anonymity of this led to things like bullying and bigotry with little to no supervision. According to The Verge, the app fell rapidly from popularity in 2015 and was subsequently shut down in 2017. Refinery29 suggests that this was seemingly the end for YikYak until it was quietly made available to download again in 2021. Though it is only available to download for iPhone users currently, it quickly regained its popularity among college students.
As many students are aware, YikYak has a small but steady user base amongst Maryville College students. The content posted to the anonymous message board is about what is to be expected: sexually explicit messages, bigoted remarks and comments made about the school—all of which are made with the security of knowing that one remains anonymous. This has proven to be a double-edged sword.
At its best, YikYak allows for a highly individualized discussion platform. Maryville College students can talk to each other about things directly related to our school. As stated above, people are given the opportunity to state how they really feel about the goings-on at the school without any fear of repercussions either socially or officially. For students who feel that they have a harder time getting their voices heard, this could be an excellent tool.
On the other hand, it also allows people to make bigoted and hateful remarks that they otherwise would likely not have made if they knew they could face repercussions. Most recently, this has led to homophobic comments being shared with little to no overhead in order to tamper the hateful posts.
There is also a growing concern of who exactly is on the app. While it is to be assumed that it is primarily students on the app given that teens and young adults are the intended audiences, there is nothing stopping instructors, faculty and staff from reading posts or starting conversations of their own on YikYak. Students making anonymous, sexually explicit comments could very well walk into class the next day without knowing that their instructor read their post.
There is also the problem of students planning to meet up; while this would normally not be an issue, large numbers of students gathering during a pandemic does not exactly align with Maryville College policy. With the number of Omicron cases rising so rapidly in Blount County alone, these large gatherings do nothing to improve the situation.
Ultimately, the repercussions of YikYak’s popularity on the Maryville College campus are not fully known. As of right now, it has shown to be split between pros and cons for on-campus students especially; however, the question of whether the positives of this online platform outweigh the mounting negatives still remains to be answered.