By Paige Carlin
Social media is used by teenagers around the world for communication and self-expression. However, as the realm of social media rapidly advances, the risk of abuse rises as well. Yik Yak, a new, anonymous gossip app, is one example of social media that has a high potential to be used irresponsibly.
Yik Yak was launched in November 2013 by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffingham, two Furman University graduates, according to yikyakapp.com, the app is “a hyper-local place to rant about anything anonymously with people in your community.” On Yik Yak, people anonymously post “yaks” that can be accessed by everyone using the app in the surrounding area.
Yik Yak has functions that are similar to those of other social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: users can “upvote,” “downvote” or reply to a yak.
Although the app was originally intended for college students as an anonymous forum to express their thoughts, opinions and jokes, Yik Yak has gained popularity among high school students. The upsurge of interest in the app appears to stem from the students’ value of anonymity. Yik Yak gives teenagers the license to post whatever is on their minds without fear of repercussions.
However, Yik Yak seems to take a proactive approach to the prevention of cyber bullying. Upon joining, users are alerted of the rules of the app, which stress that bullying is not tolerated. In addition, Yik Yak’s GPS function does not allow for its use in a school setting and the app automatically deletes yaks that have more than five downvotes.
Although the app provides students with a unique opportunity, the danger of typical high school antics appearing on Yik Yak escalates along with its popularity. The threat of cyber bullying exists on all forms of social media, however, the anonymity of Yik Yak sets it apart from other sites. Due to the lack of identity, some students believe that there will be no consequences and post their thoughts about others, no matter how offensive.
Yik Yak is simply another variation of social media that provides its users with freedom and relatability. But the anonymity of the app has the potential to be humorous or malicious, depending on whether or not high school students choose to use it responsibly.