by Chelsea Moran
Web Content Contributor
*KTSW consists of and respects varying opinions within its staff. Opinion articles do not reflect the opinion of KTSW as a whole.
A few days ago I came across this post while randomly scrolling through Yik Yak, the anonymous social media site where people can put their thoughts, no matter how extreme, out into the universe. In this yak, the Original Poster (OP) talks about how he or she attempted to commit suicide. Some people’s comments were ignorant, but others were genuinely concerned and even offered help should the Original Poster need someone to talk to. When I saw this I was slightly shocked, but sadly, this is not the first yak to come from someone who’s attempted suicide and talked about it via Yik Yak.
Which brings up the question, is this social app helping or hurting people in this situation? Back in 2014, a petition was started with the goal to remove Yik Yak from app stores because teens (college students as well) were using the app to anonymously bully their peers, leading some people to self harm. Elizabeth Long, the creator of the petition, was a victim of cyberbullying who attempted to take her life, thankfully Elizabeth is still here and she has made it her mission to shut down the anonymous app. In December of 2014, Elizabeth met with Yik Yak founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington to discuss bullying on the app. By the end of this meeting the founders agreed to implement changes in their policies to prevent cyberbullying on Yik Yak. You may have noticed changes such as an age restriction on who can download the app, and if the yak you’re writing seems questionable, Yik Yak will question you and suggest a change. Policy changes like that last one however, are not always effective because they don’t always work. Last month on October 27, 2015 Elizabeth started a new petition calling out Yik Yak for not implementing all the changes discussed. The petition calls for the app to either instate said changes or risk being removed from the app store market completely.
As an avid follower of Texas State’s herd on Yik Yak, I understand why someone would want this app shut down. People can be cruel, especially when their name is not attached to the harsh content they throw out into the web. One change discussed in Elizabeth’s meeting with the founder involved a word filter that would prevent people from using names on the app. Either this change was ignored completely, or the feature itself doesn’t work, because just this week people yaked a girls name several times for accidentally including a professor in a mass email only meant for the class, which resulted in the class not receiving a review for the final. If we are strictly speaking of bullying in terms of naming the girl who made a mistake then yes. Yik Yak needs to step up, take responsibility, and implement the changes they promised, because there is no telling what being bullied could have led this poor girl to do. With that in mind, I don’t think Yik Yak should be removed from the app store.
Many post may be crude, and there may be a lot of ignorance going around, but in the case of the poster who attempted suicide, yik yak made a difference. He/she actually thanked everyone who commented on the post because it made him/her feel better about living another day. Sometimes people need positive reinforcement but feel like they can’t tell anyone they actually know, so they search for it on the app. Sometimes people need tough love and Bobcats are not afraid to tell you how they really feel in the my herd feature. Even if Yik Yak were to shutdown, there are several other anonymous websites that are still going strong and for one simple reason; everybody needs a place to vent without the people they know and love judging them. I believe that Yik Yak is here to stay, but I will follow the new petition to see how things pan out. If you are interested or want to know more about the the petition and the policies of Yik Yak, click the link above and let me know what you think about the Yik Yak bullying situation.