Keyboard courage disturbs some

Yik Yak logo. Courtesy of aztechbeat.com
Yik Yak logo. Courtesy of aztechbeat.com

A new social media trend where people post anonymous digs about others is raising concerns on Arizona campuses.

Many people believe that anonymity leads to slanderous statements without accountability. Yik Yak is the latest example.

The app allows users to post anonymous comments is single-handedly transforming social interactions on Arizona college campuses.

The app uses geo-location to filter users into a feed that corresponds with their community within a 1.5 mile radius. A wide range of topics is posted, and many times specific organizations, racial groups, genders, and sexual orientations are targeted.

Users compose “Yaks” about anything and everything, which can be commented on and either filtered into the “Hot” category by ranking determined by “Upvotes” given by other users, or deleted from the feed altogether due to too many “Downvotes”.

Some posts are highly controversial and offensive. One recent one: “That awkward moment when it’s way past Halloween and you’re still a whore.” Others specifically criticize people by name.

Alexander Rodriguez says he heard about Yik Yak when he started attending University of Arizona this August. He decided to download the app out of boredom, stating that he wanted to be in-the-know when it came to what was occurring on campus.

Rodriguez quickly realized that it was more of a gossip feed than means of communication, and thinks of it as “an anonymous Twitter…which is scary when you think about it. People have no filter when no one knows it’s them.”

UAPD officer Lauren Connell had no knowledge of what Yik Yak was, nor the nature of it’s content.  “It’s probably a good thing we don’t know about it,” Connell said.

Although Arizona college campuses have avoided any life-threatening incidents involving Yik Yak, other schools nationwide have had to take action against users.

A 20-year-old Penn State student was arrested Oct. 11 and admitted to posting a threat to bring assault rifles to campus and “kill everyone in Penn State main,” according to an article posted to the Penn State News website.

Arizona State University Sophomore Jordan Copperman thinks that Yik Yak has been a negative force on campus and believes it should be banned. “Social media is an easy way for people to get attention when they actually need professional help. I’m worried someone will snap and use Yik Yak as a way to glorify a shooting on campus,” he said.

Although radical accusations are often made on Yik Yak about UA Greek organizations, Johanne Ives, assistant dean of students for fraternity and sorority programs at U.A., says that unless there is a formal complaint, actions taken by the school are limited due to lack of credibility on the app.

Ives has been proactive in an initiative to stop Cyberbullying. “There’s a lot of ‘keyboard courage’ when people can remain anonymous [on the Internet],” she said.

The Cyberbullying campaign is part of SafeCats, an educational program that “disperses safety-related information on- and off-campus for students, faculty and staff.” Workshops can be found on its webpage that demonstrates what it means to be a perpetuator of Cyberbullying and provides resources for victims of Cyberbullying.

Julianne Boisvert is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News Service from the school of journalism at the University of Arizona. 

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