Changing the Conversation on Yik Yak for good

A&E

Of all the double-edged swords that young adults presently face, surely the one that cuts the deepest is Yik Yak. Stirring up national controversy in the past two years, the social platform has served as a place where thoughts on anything within a geographic range can be broadcasted to others, completely anonymously. What at first sounds like a first amendment lovers-delight turns into something horrifying when one only takes a quick browse at what goes on their area’s feed. Often rampant with homophobic and racial insensitivity, explicit sexual content, and direct calling-out of individuals, Yik Yak gives the user the ability to cower behind a phone as they devastate roommates, ex-girlfriends, professors, etc. with words. It is not opinion to say that this nameless platform incites hateful slander and bullying – it is undeniable fact.

What opinion do I have to express on this platform that has not already been expressed by some outraged parent or educational expert? High Point University is in a unique situation. The footage around campus has been termed an “activity hotspot” by Yik Yak, meaning that the ratio of “yaks” to student population is one of the highest in the region. Apparently, the Panther student body has a lot to say, but no one wants to be the one saying it. Even with the extraordinary environment provided to us at HPU, the school’s Yik Yak feed is still poisoned with hatred and harassment. The notion that our student body is somehow set apart or different than the others disperses quickly when a glance is given to the rolling feed of opinions every aggressor behind a piece of technology has to offer.

High schools around the country have shut down the app’s access in their school zones, and as a result of this, Yik Yak has made its app purposefully unavailable across all high school, middle school, and elementary school geographic areas. Petitions to shut down the application altogether have over 78,000 signatures.

When there is social media injustice of this kind, what is to be done? Blaming Yik Yak, however easy it may be, is not the answer. Yik Yak only provides the platform for everyone’s thoughts, but the actual content comes from human beings navigating a dangerous combination of unknown identities and technology. What needs to change on Yik Yak is the way in which people are communicating. By getting rid of Yik Yak, a university is just leaving the real problems of hatred and bullying to fester until some other service comes along to exploit these fears. A community suffering from hateful slander need only to refer to the basic principles demand-side economics. If you want to stop the illegal drug trade, you don’t kill the supply of the drug by wiping out farms the source them or capturing drug dealers. But if you curb the demand through educational programs and drug addiction rehabilitation, the number of illegal drugs will significantly decrease because there is no demand for them.

Educate our community about these issues of racial acceptance and equality. Provide open platforms where questions about sexuality or depression can be discussed in person and with experts. Provide opportunities for open conversation between students instead of fighting it out unidentified. Put constant and clear communication in the light and no longer leave these bullies in the dark. They are weak. They need help now more than ever. And furthermore, make Yik Yak a force for good. Let us celebrate and compliment those who achieve, and let us make those who are just glancing feel loved and worthy, instead of repulsion.

The solution is not an end to the platform by the administration or another “Shut down Yik Yak” Petition. At this point, solutions like these are just examples of impulsive ignorance acting. This is America – not only do we have the right to freely express ourselves, but Yik Yak has the right to chase profit in this great country of ours. Instead of silencing the ridicule, let’s change the conversation.

Campus Chronicle
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