Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Is Yik Yak on college campuses an asset or a liability?



Some disclaimers- I do not have a Yik Yak, I have never had a Yik Yak, and I neither judge nor possess inherent dislike for the app. There are, indeed, hilarious one-liners and witty posts that I have heard my friends read aloud, and in truth, it was a brilliant idea to create a geographically based bulletin board for a campus or region.

The only issue I have with Yik Yak is one of the most obvious, and the problem that most young adults hear administration and adults utter—it creates a space for public, anonymous meanness. Anonymity can be a wonderful thing, and it can be used to spread positivity, such as anonymous compliments or encouraging commentary about a particular element of school culture. Yet, more often than not, Yik Yak anonymity incites Yaks that insult, degrade, and mock our peers and our campus. These remarks would probably not be shared, were it not for the seeming privacy of anonymity. They can create images of people that are unfair or untrue, or at the very least, not nice. No one deserves to be degraded, especially not on a public forum.

College is difficult for everyone, in all sorts of ways. Life is hard. People can be mean. Most have been teased or bullied at some point in their life experiences. Trinity has the benefit of being a small enough campus that most faces are familiar, everyone who chose to be a part of this amazing community did so, in part, because of this closeness and possibility of interacting with hundreds of incredible students.

We chose to associate ourselves with a group of 2400 humans who are all intelligent, caring, beautiful, and good, and professors who truly want to live and work here. I, for one, believe in this image of our campus. No amount of scathing Yaks could change this opinion- Trinity is bursting with spectacular human beings, people who are lovely, inside and out.

All that I would change, if I could, is the culture that I have sometimes witnessed- one that grants validity to negative, cruel comments that peers make. There is never a truly good reason to insult anyone. We’re all great. And honestly, Yik Yak is the only forum in which I’ve ever heard intentionally mean comments. For the most part, Trinity is a kind, loving, and supportive campus, but we can do better. We do not have to attack our peers, teachers and even Mather food online, even if the way in which we do it is funny. It gives power to unkindness, and it takes away from our college experience. We have the opportunity to interact with people, some of whom we will never see again, and we distance ourselves from them by mocking them on apps such as Yik Yak. We don’t take advantage of the chance we currently possess to make friends with a number of people who seem, at first glance, to be quite different than ourselves.

When we post sexual comments about people we’ve never met or when we attribute nasty labels to our peers, it may be humorous and it may be witty, but it will certainly exacerbate a culture that isolates us from our community members. These actions do not help us become the best versions of ourselves. Isn’t that what college is for—finding our inner selves through formative encounters with teachers and friends? Stretching our minds to their fullest potentials, and then stretching them some more?

Again, I won’t say that Yik Yak is intrinsically wrong, just as I will never believe that any person is innately mean, but like anything, the app holds great capacity for both good and for evil. Yik Yak could be used to make our campus better. We could say only nice things, kind statements can still be witty. There’s nothing better than spontaneous compliments from strangers, right? We could use it to market campus events, and tell the campus about how kind your best friend is for bringing you your favorite Peter B’s drink, or how good it felt that your professor let you out of class twenty minutes early, or even how beautiful your friend/girlfriend/boyfriend is. We could turn Yik Yak posts into uplifting, positive messages instead of commentary that snarls at a girl for the way she runs on a treadmill, or mocks an RA for strictness, or a professor who dresses strangely.

I know that we are a group of spectacular human beings. The administration knows it, too, or else they would not have admitted us. I have experienced extraordinary friendliness and emotional support this entire first year of being a Bantam, and I wholeheartedly look forward to the years to come. My only hope in communicating my thoughts on Yik Yak is not to make anyone feel wrong for using the app or attacked; we all say things that we wish we could take back. I believe that Trinity is worth bettering, and one way to uplift our campus is to use the many tools at our disposal, such as Yik Yak, to brighten someone’s day. It just feels better.


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