Can you imagine if Yik Yak was still around during the height of the BLM movement this summer?!

Does anyone else remember Yik Yak? Seems like a good chunk of Twitter does, as a viral tweet has everyone walking down memory lane of the social messaging app. 

What is Yik Yak?

For those who didn’t have the “pleasure” of using Yik Yak, it was a social messaging app that allowed anyone in a five mile radius to view and post discussion threads, aka a ‘Yak.’ It was created in 2013 and had features vaguely similar to Twitter. A user was able to write their own yak, respond to one, and like or dislike (upvote/downvote). Upvoting and downvoting was not only a like/dislike feature, but it also had ranking weight. This meant that the more downvotes a yak got, the less it appeared in the feed. If a yak got more than five downvotes, it would be deleted permanently. Conversely, the more upvotes a yak got, the more it would appear in a feed. Sounds kind of fun, right?

 

Why Yik Yak Was Problematic

Wrong. A key aspect of Yik Yak was that everything was anonymous! On top of that, there wasn’t a way for the conversations happening on the app to be monitored at all, so Yik Yak quickly became a place for cyberbullying and extremely racist behavior on many college campuses. Posts containing a phone number were not allowed to be posted. Similarly, posts with offensive language were flagged and subject to be taken down. Aside from that, everything else was fair game. At some schools, the hate on Yik Yak got so out of control that the app had to be banned from campus altogether. In 2016, the app reported a downfall in user downloads by 76% compared to 2015. 

Deactivation

On April 28, 2017 the app announced it would be deactivating because they were not able to maintain user engagement after their drastic drop in downloads and users in 2016. This can be attested to all of the schools that took action on their own campuses against the app. Critics said that any platform where users could be anonymous would quickly become a place for bullying. The app was forced to get rid of 60% of their staff before eventually announcing their deactivation. In 2017, the mobile payment operator Square Inc. purchased the app and integrated what was left of their team into their company. But this sad history didn’t stop Twitter from reminiscing on the days the app was alive and well. 

Trending On Twitter

Twitter was reminded of these dark days when a user posted a tweet that said, “if you were in college when Yik Yak was a thing, you are one of the few that I have ultimate respect for.” Just the reminder of the anonymous app’s existence had people reeling. For those who did go to school with the app, not even just college, it affected highschool and middle school students alike, a mention of Yik Yak brings back suppressed memories of cyberbullying and gossip for most. 

The common theme in this trending thread is definitely the collective agreement that this app was the epitome of toxicity and problematic. 

On many college campuses, the cyberbullying revolved around race and was highly racist. The anonymity of the app gave oppressors the perfect platform for hate speech and racist remarks. It often was a reality check for many white students that the student body was not as integrated and anti-racist as they may have thought.

Of course, there was a small percent of Yik Yak content that wasn’t terrible. Some people liked to use the app to play pranks.

But you really did have to have a thick skin to use the app most days. Some of the stuff posted was truly terrible and did cause trauma!

September being Suicide Awareness month does remind us of one positive side of Yik Yak. The anonymity of the app allowed college users to feel more comfortable opening up about their struggles with mental health. A student from The College of William and Mary, a school all too familiar with suicide, chatted with NPR in 2015 about her experience with Yik Yak on campus. She showed a screenshot of a yak where a user expressed thoughts about possibly harming themselves. She showed journalists how other users replied with encouraging messages, urging the initial user to seek professional help. The William and Mary student commented on how she has seen Yik Yak be a positive source for aiding those struggling with poor mental health. Alternatively, she was quoted not seeing the same support for survivors of sexual assault on the platform. She noticed that users of Yik Yak were quick to cast judgement or not believe the survivor. So nevermind, Yik Yak was never that great. 

Overall, most people were probably relieved to see Yik Yak go as it proved to be way too problematic and toxic. While it may be unpleasant to relive some of these Yik Yak memories, it’s nice to know the app is safely out of our lives. 

With Yik Yak gone though, has there been another app to take their place? Is TikTok comparable to Yik Yak in some way?? Let us know what you think!