Late last month, social media platform Yik Yak announced its intent to start including pictures along with posts. Yik Yak, an anonymous bulletin board, has invited controversy since its inception due to many reports of cyberbullying and offensive language. Though the public should allow time for the company to shed its negative image and adopt an inclusive identity, this new feature fails to move Yik Yak forward and ultimately creates a more derisive environment.
Unlike its counterpart, Whisper, which allows users to post completely anonymously from anywhere in the world, Yik Yak provides a more personal atmosphere due to posts that can only be viewed within a 1.5-mile radius. Because of this, the app is popular in communities, especially college campuses, with users validating each post with an up or down vote. According to CEO Tyler Droll, it is the college students who often engage in discussion and debate over campus topics that have requested the addition of photos along with their “yaks.”
The reality is, prior to the addition of images on Yik Yak, reports of dangerous users had already put the company under scrutiny. In October 2014, police officers arrested a user for threatening to “kill everyone in Penn State Main.” University of Michigan discovered in April that a Yik Yak user in its community posted an apparent suicide note. Not to mention, at Utica College, an army of people spewed directed slurs at the campus’ transgender population. These are some of the many incidents which have propelled the public to believe that the mere existence of Yik Yak is highly detrimental to the student population.
The addition of pictures on Yik Yak fights fire with fire. Granted, posting each photo comes with many Yik Yak-imposed safeguards. For instance, any picture containing a face or signs of nudity will be immediately revoked. These restrictions are seemingly put in place to ensure the safety of Yik Yak users; however, they also silently confirm the existence and inevitability of malicious content. Obviously, setting the availability of each board to such a narrow proximity increases the likelihood of targeted posts. And now, internet bullies are equipped with two different kinds of weapons: text and images.
Perhaps the biggest contributor to Yik Yak’s nastiness is in the very fabric of the app’s construction. Anonymity will always give endless power to cruelly mock and make threats. As psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow put it, “Psychologically, Yik Yak actually removes all pretense of being a person with empathy, genuinely connected to other human beings.” No amount of innovation, especially not the addition of photos, will steer Yik Yak toward a path of humanity.
Even at its very best, Yik Yak is still irresponsible. Users commenting on their mundane lives are part of a faceless mob, ready to attack by force of voting or posting.
To educate this crowd, Yik Yak’s endeavors should include teaching its users the effects of each publication, no matter how mundane. In contrast, the photo feature does nothing to strengthen Yik Yak’s moral compass. Once an image is posted to cyberspace, the poster has no idea about how his or her picture has traveled.
That being said, Yik Yak aims to foster patches of communities, and its growth thus far on college campuses seems to be an indomitable force — the app is found on more than 1,500 campuses. Communities, however, are made up of people who deserve the respect of one another. Yik Yak’s injustices cannot simply be eradicated by the new picture feature, and by not teaching users the responsibility of mindful language, Yik Yak fails to progress. New strategy, please.
Danni Wang is a junior majoring in psychology. She is also the lifestyle assignments editor of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” will run Tuesdays.