If you’re an Ohio University student, or a student at any university, you’ve probably heard about the re-emergence of YikYak. YikYak is a social media platform that allows you to post anonymously to the area within a five-mile radius. It’s similar to Twitter in its scrolling and commenting format, except no one knows who is making the posts. YikYak also has a feature in which users can upvote or downvote posts to show their approval or lack thereof.
If you’re wondering where YikYak went, the answer is disheartening but not surprising. After a slew of bomb threats, shooting threats and cyberbullying that eventually led to a downfall of usage, the app was taken down. Some of the cyberbullying posts included racist and homophobic remarks.
YikYak went offline in April 2017. Four years later, it’s back — this time with a little stricter guidelines to keep the bullying and threats off the platform. The premise, however, is still the same.
While the app is quite slow in Athens — probably because there are more people on it than anticipated — it’s pretty fun. Every time you refresh the app, there’s new content, no matter the hour of the day. Most “Yaks” are people making jokes that are specific to Athens, but some are a little toxic. There are a lot of people who post explicit and suggestive content, which is weird when you consider that it’s all anonymous. That is what people love about YikYak, though.
Anonymity on a social media platform gives people the chance to say whatever they want. In every other aspect of our lives — in person, on other social media platforms — individuals are held accountable for what they say. On YikYak, that accountability goes away completely.
YikYak, as an anonymous platform, gives people the opportunity to post their completely uninhibited thoughts or opinions, as they will suffer no consequences for what they say. It’s no surprise that four years ago, the app took a fall into toxicity because of this. When there is no repercussions for what is said, people push the line as far as they can possibly imagine. In the current times we live in, where people are criticized online if something they say is taken the wrong way, this freedom can feel exhilarating.
If someone says something they think is funny but the joke doesn’t land, there are no feelings of embarrassment attached to it because no one knows who it is. The anonymity makes us disconnected from what we say. Whether it’s dumb, controversial, offensive: it doesn’t matter.
This will inevitably lead to issues as we become desensitized and the criteria for what is considered shocking narrows. Already, with the app being up for a few weeks, people in the Athens radius are posting names of individual people to try and call them out or embarrass them. This is the opposite of what YikYak is for. It’s not supposed to have any sort of personal vendetta against people; it’s just for trash-posting silly thoughts and Athens-centric content.
While it may be fun for now, YikYak in Athens is on its way to becoming a deeply toxic platform that will undoubtedly be the cause of its downfall for the second time. Hopefully, Bobcats — and all YikYak users — can keep it classy enough that the app doesn’t have to come down again. Keep an eye out for my Yaks, not like it matters, though. You won’t know it’s me.
Mikayla Rochelle is a graduate student studying public administration at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Mikayla by tweeting her at @mikayla_roch.