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Even aside from the topic of this article, the return to a fully in person college campus has been accompanied by many surprising and strange phenomena. Many of us who experienced pre-pandemic semesters have been struggling to adjust to the return to the discipline of sitting in a lecture hall for hours on end—contrasting starkly with the lazy mornings in bed with a laptop open on Zoom of the last two semesters. However, in addition to that, the previously retired social media app “YikYak” has begun to rise throughout many campuses across the U.S.

When I first heard mention of YikYak, I was instantly shocked, because, as you probably remember, social media app YikYak peaked around 2014, and quickly fell out of popularity, shutting down in 2017. The app is essentially an anonymous Twitter, except the tweets you view are limited to those sent by users within a five mile radius, making it the perfect storm for things like college campuses. Users can “yak” and vote up and down posts, earning “yakkarma,” a unit of measurement for your account’s success. 

As one can imagine, this setup leads to (and almost encourages) cyber-bullying. The anonymity of the platform, coupled with the guarantee that your content will be seen by primarily those nearby you, who naturally are more likely to be familiar with any individuals you reference. It’s quick and easy to put any info or comment that crosses your mind out through a “yak,” and others almost instantly begin replying and egging each other on with upvotes and replies.

The app was recently re-released this August, and has already begun its comeback across the nation. Predictably, the most popular demographic is late teens to young adults, making the app a hit once again across campuses. In true YikYak fashion, the app is still carrying on its legacy of being a hotspot for bullying, as different student organizations and individuals now have a tool enabling them to anonymously gossip—and everyone is pressured to download the app to see what is being said about themselves and fellow students, likely catalyzed by the excitement of being back on campus and craving for socialization after the past two remote semesters.

This is not to say the platform is all bad, of course. Just as platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok have both positive and uplifting aspects peppered with the more negative ones, YikYak is definitely a fun way to share with people nearby, allowing us to feel more connected to the surrounding area and social scene. But I think in a world where sharing comments and information seems so easy, reducing it to something with an illusion of triviance, it is important to stay aware that words have energy—and consequences.

Lily is a sophomore at SUNY Geneseo studying neuroscience with intentions of progressing on to medical school. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, hiking, and trying new coffee shops.
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