Jeremy Vreeken – Columnist
By now, most of us have heard of the app Yik Yak. This app is essentially like Twitter, but locally focused and anonymous. Ideally, it’s a place for people to share funny or interesting thoughts, quotes, jokes, shout-outs, etc. while being able to remain detached from what they are saying. No one knows who is posting what, but users can respond to each other and potentially get a conversation going.
This app has existed for quite a while but, like most new and interesting things, it has taken quite a while to come to Northwest Iowa. Now that it’s here, however, it has taken our community by storm. Unfortunately, the idea of using of the app for positive, funny and uplifting purposes went out the window almost immediately.
At Dordt, as on many other campuses, Yik Yak became a place for immediate, usually negative, reactions to anything that was going in the community. Here, it became a place where people complained about professors, classes, or guest speakers, and where personal attacks on fellow students could be conducted without fear of being identified or of repercussions. The vast majority of the comments on Yik Yak turned out to be things that no one would say to another person, or even out loud, in a million years.
The classic phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” came to mind as I browsed the Yik Yak feed. While a phrase like this may seem childish or like something you’re grandma would say, I think it’s important to keep in mind. Grandma might know more than you give her credit for.
Our neighbor-school Northwestern College in Orange City, in an attempt to curb malicious online behavior, has banned Yik Yak on campus. They said that the comments on the app did not foster positive community on campus. I’m not sure I agree with their methods, but I think they might have the right idea. If something is harming people on campus, maybe it should be removed.
I’m not saying that we all need to boycott Yik Yak, or Twitter, or any other form of online communication and social media because we might offend someone, but we do need to actually think about what we’re saying online. The ease of online communication, and the fact that smartphones bring the internet into our pockets, has created an environment that encourages the idea that because I can say something means that I should something. Because we never have to see the faces of the people we talk about online, we never have to deal with the consequences of our words.
At least, if you were to say terrible things about someone to their face, maybe they’d punch you in your face and you’d learn your lesson—online, there’s no one to punch you in the face.
I have heard it said that we need apps like Yik Yak so that we can present our opinions and criticisms without fear of judgement or oppression. This idea is OK as long as the app never gets used to judge and oppress others—which it does. Daily. On top of that, if you really have a problem with a person or an institution, have the spine to actually get up, get off your phone, and go talk to them about it. Think through your argument, present it properly, and take it seriously. If all you’re doing is anonymously “YikYak-ing” about it, then you will be anonymously ignored in return.
The next time you are going to complain about a fellow student or a faculty member on Yik Yak or other social media, just imagine what that person would say about you anonymously if they had the chance. Maybe you are just as annoying, or maybe, just maybe, some of those nasty anonymous Yik Yak posts are about you.