Castleton University students, alongside millions of college students around the nation, have been flocking to a social media app known as Yik Yak in recent weeks. Originally released in 2013, Yik Yak provides an anonymous and consequence-free platform where anything can be said.
You can only see the posts within a five-mile radius of your current location.
The regulation-free model created by developers quickly turned out to be more of a problem than what it was worth after regulatory attempts from universities led to the widespread ban of the platform on campuses across the country. This drop in the app’s popularity led to its removal from all platforms for roughly 4 years.
During the pandemic, the app was once again made available to download, now with a plethora of community guidelines that hoped to combat the issues present in the first version.
Similar to countless other campuses across the country, Castleton students have been downloading Yik Yak at an exponential rate.
If you were one of the few users on campus back at the beginning of the fall semester, a post — or “yak” — that got 10 upvotes could be considered a big deal. Now, some posts garner upwards of 70 upvotes.
“I feel like all social groups are on it,” one anonymous user said. “Like a local, anonymous Twitter.”
Despite remaining virtually anonymous, several local users have garnered some notoriety around campus. Logging into the app, one would take notice of users bearing emojis such as “Dodo”, “Ballerina Shoes” or even “Clown Face”.
And although they remain unidentified to the wider Yik Yak community, they are able to share what is on their mind alongside everyone else, without fear of judgment from peers.
However, as the app continues to rise in popularity, so does the drama found within it.
One such controversy was the repeated disregard for the cleanliness of the shared kitchen facilities found within Hoff Hall. Many took to the platform to raise awareness of this, while others took a different approach and would claim they were responsible for such acts.
“Please. We are beggin you. KEEP THE KITCHENS IN HOFF CLEAN. Thank you in advance,” an unnamed Hoff Community Advisor posted.
Yik Yak as a whole is certainly not perfect, and with the veil of anonymity, misinformation is almost a guarantee on the platform.
It was the spread of this misinformation, alongside uncontrolled cyberbullying, that led to the first shutdown of the app. Now, many are left questioning if this model is sustainable in a world where misinformation can be as damaging as the truth — if not more.
The community that Castleton students are building on this app is where we see the merit of the platform truly shine through.
The center focus of Yik Yak is not on the individual, but on the community as a whole. There are numerous occasions of users going out of their way to help others and it provides a platform to speak freely about opinions that otherwise might not be shared.
“I think Yik Yak is so helpful here because it is a way for people to ask questions safely and read about what is going on behind the scenes on campus,” student Janaya Richardson said.