The Attack of Yik Yak

Across the bleak landscape of social networks lies many fallen apps, platforms and startups trying to leave their mark in our new “social" culture. While the few and proud rise to top of the latest trends, others simply fall to the wayside. Lost in their own identity as a platform (I’m looking at you, Path), or simply no longer the cool kid on the block (*cough* MySpace *cough*), social networks come and go with little more than a whimper. Many contenders rise up only to be riddled with privacy troubles and scandalous practices, their users leaving in droves.

With the giants of Facebook and Google knowing everything about everyone, it’s hard to feel as if your voice matters at all. Your 5,000 likes, shares, and favs only go so far. Why can’t #Follow4Follow simply be enough?

Suddenly, a foe lumbers onto the plane of battle, horns aimed at the very core of the human heart. They call it Yik Yak. It knows nothing. It knows everything.

Enter the Yak

While there is certainly no shortage of social networks that emphasize anonymous posts and interactions, Yik Yak is the first platform I’ve seen that turns its bare simplicity into its strength. Though, the truly intriguing part of Yik Yak is the way people are using it.

Due Yik Yak’s location-based nature, the geographical constraints placed on its users has begun to reveal what Yik Yak truly does.

In my specific context (and what I assume is the case for most of its users), Yik Yak is an absolute beast at the University of Florida. In fact, the app strongly hints that users should be at least college-age to use or enjoy it at all. The idea is a spark to a large flame. What better place to use a social network that is dependent on your location than a place where everyone knows where everything is and what goes on at all times during the day?

Browsing through my Yik Yak feed makes me feel like one of the cool kids in high school, being included in the elite “inner-circle” of kids who just talking about everyone else.

Because every post is anonymous, knowing exactly who said what is practically impossible. But that hasn’t stopped users from being eerily specific in their posts. From “shot-outs” to guys/girls they think are hot as they pass by them on campus to complaining about another student sitting across from them in the library. Yik Yak has become the place to dump the most spontaneous thoughts (often about others) with little-to-no consequences.

In a way, Yik Yak is the purest form of human nature. When identity is out of the picture, students are free to express their feelings and thoughts toward others without having to own up to them. As long as their post isn’t drastically targeted, a student could theoretically get away with saying just about anything. However, Yik Yak’s “karma” system attempts to keep users in check. By allowing everyone to vote on any post, the truly mean-spirited posts will be filtered out if they receive enough negative votes. That’s the idea anyway.

While Yik Yak isn’t something I would ever want to spend extended periods of time on, it’s still a fascinating dive into the minds of small number of students. Opening it up on a Monday and you’ll more than likely find a small recount of students’ escapades over the weekend. As someone who doesn’t live on campus, opening Yik Yak as I arrive every day gives me a little taste of campus life outside of what my friends tell me.

Scrolling through Yik Yak is like reading a series of inside jokes—some are clever, some aren’t. There is no need for followers or friends because the feed is shared with everyone around you. Yik Yak seems more like a social hive mind more than a social network.

At the moment, I can’t tell if there is room to grow for Yik Yak as a platform. As it stands, Yik Yak has served collage campuses well. The constructive anonymous community it’s attempting to build is fascinating. While the app as had troubles in various high schools with severe bullying and threats, from my findings, Yik Yak’s “communities” built around college campuses has proven to be quite effective at banishing major harm toward others (at least at UF).

From major exam woes to occasional gawking at campus shenanigans, look no further than Yak Yik. It’s the ultimate catch-all of the ever-thinking, ever-busy mind of the average college student.

It’s altogether creepy and wonderful, and I really hope no one sees me writing that post about that weirdo in the dining hall.

If you’re interested in giving Yik Yak a try, you can check them out here and try it for yourself. NOTE: Your milage may vary based on your location.