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Yik Yak: Add a Handle

“Yik Yak is a social construct.” When we read that, did we laugh and upvote it? Absolutely. Yet this author—who I would love to credit if only I had the means—had, wittingly or not, a very real point. Social constructionism, a sociology theory, is based on the assumption that significance in a social context is dependent on the general choices of humans as a community. Does anything fit into these parameters better than social media? Does any place perpetuate such a theory better than a college campus?

Place yourself into your own shoes in an average day here on Mayflower Hill. Walking to Lovejoy or into Dana, what percentage of people are distracted by their new iPhone 6? Though this wouldn’t have been acceptable or even possible only a few years ago, our generation seems to feel a closer connection with a screen than with our surroundings. In many cases of social media, this makes sense. Texting and Facebook help us to keep in contact with our friends and family. Yik Yak, however, is an entirely different story. Over Thanksgiving break, the best way I could imagine to explain this app to my family was “anonymous Twitter.” On Yak, there’s no personal connection. All posts are entirely anonymous, and some random and seemingly pointless. Yet its users are able to use this app to relate to one another despite lacking a face to pair with the words. What does this mean for collegiate social norms?

Maybe people are drifting away from face-to-face interaction into the cyber world, but it’s also pretty special that we’re able to connect with one another without even knowing each other, and in under 200 characters. Additionally, anonymity provides college students with an outlet where they know they can express themselves without judgment. There are few other spaces where it’s considered acceptable to complain relentlessly about your workload, love life, or the third floor of Miller Library. Better yet, who knew that posts about squirrels or jokes about other colleges could be appreciated by over a hundred people? If your post is well liked, the solidarity can even be a sort of social validation.

While some use Yik Yak to discuss real issues, others use it only for hilarity and entertainment. Unlike other social media, it’s regulated by its users through a voting system, and the anonymous status of every user makes it simple to be honest without repercussion. Though ironic, an anonymous app somehow seems to foster a sense of community in the student body, especially here at Colby. It provides conversation starters on the occasions when personal interaction does occur, a way for students to air grievances or jokes without judgment, and at the very least a source of entertainment in the omelet line.

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Natalie Jones is a first year at Colby College from Northern Maine. She hasn't declared yet, but is leaning towards a Double Major in Psychology and English. When not in class she mentors for CCAK, watches copious amounts of television, and of course writes and edits for Her Campus Colby.
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