YikYak - A Positive Perspective

by Tamera Dunn
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading through your institution's YikYak page, YikYak is an application available for smart phone users which enables users to post anonymously. As you can imagine, some posts run straight to the highly inappropriate as individuals affiliated with a university or in its general geographic area are hidden by a cloack of relative anonymity. The goal of a YikYak user is to gain 'Yakarma'. Gaining upvotes on your posts and actively upvoting or downvoting, commenting, etc. enhances your Yakarma. 

I have seen a number of social media posts on other networks from fellow student affairs professionals and graduate students which are quick to point out the failings of creating an anonymous forum for individuals with little self-control to post freely. However, I think this exposure to what our students are feeling, thinking, and doing proves to be a unique tool. While we can certainly complain about the inability to connect with a specific student and their feelings, we can certainly begin to identify trends, understand student habits, and even create a forum for being able to publicize the good things happening on our campuses. 

Here are a couple positive posts I have seen while actively looking through YikYak pages for my current institution: 

- In need of a study partner for my anatomy class. 
Within 5 minutes, 10 students in the class had spoken up and arranged meeting locations. 

- Seeking a workout partner
There is now a running group which meets outside my apartment every morning before dawn. I try to forgive their excitement at 6am for a quality run. 

It's also important to look through the types of comments on posts. Some institutions feature several which read 'repost'. Other institutions, where YikYak is beginning to become more prevalent, have more blatantly graphic posts. These observations are my own, but as the number of comments indicating a 'repost' increases, the number of individuals using the YikYak application has decreased for a particular campus. As users disappear, posts became less inappropriate. This leads me to believe that YikYak is not here to stay, but rather, to give a unique opportunity for student affairs practitioners to gain a realistic understanding of our students and how they anonymously pass along their thoughts. 

It would have been far simpler to join the many naysayers and write an article this week outlining the many reasons why institutions are right to limit or block a student's ability to use apps such as YikYak. However, those articles are already out there for you to read upon a quick Google search. I could easily pull ten negative posts from YikYak and discuss which each post is concerning. This approach serves to further encourage students to circumvent, increase the undesirability of their post contents, and create further resistance when working to educate students regarding the realities of their online presence. 

I personally do have YikYak on my phone. While I am disappointed by the many inappropriate posts by students, I also think this is a way to stay connected and better understand their perspective. Once in a while, I reply to a post seeking information about a program or event. Sometimes I even post a Yak myself to demonstrate positive use of anonymous social media. I tend to flag several posts, because much like our beloved starfish, each flag makes a difference to the one student who could be emotionally distressed by the contents of a YikYak post. 

It can be challenging to consider, but if you are a YikYak user and a student affairs graduate student or professional, step up to the plate. Be the representation of positive YikYak usage for your campus. I had plenty of time during my on-call week last week to look through countless YikYak pages to create observations and generalizations for this post, and would love to chat further about YikYak via Twitter [@Tam2theEra]. 

Student Affairs - the First Years

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