For many students, YikYak is another app to scroll through to keep themselves occupied. The same light-hearted distraction one might seek on TikTok or Twitter.
“I go on [YikYak] about once a day,” sophomore Aspen Carvajal said. “I scroll for maybe 10 minutes, just looking for something funny.”
The pseudonymous app has reentered the social media lexicons of students across the country after being relaunched in August 2021. For the most part, users air their daily thoughts, ask for anonymous advice and post school in-jokes.
However, it’s not a laughing matter for everyone.
“When you have an anonymous forum localized to a five mile radius, when someone posts something really offensive or even violent or threatening, it has another layer of offense,” Student Government Association President Andrew Wilson said. “It makes it more real.”
In the Spring 2022 semester, multiple student groups reached out to SGA regarding the anonymous app, including SU's NAACP chapter and Greek Life organizations.
Concerns were raised over discourse on the app containing racist language, slander and rumors involving student organizations and their members.
Quinn Delorme of the Salisbury Panhellenic Council says the Greek Life officer who pushed for YikYak to be blacklisted from school servers no longer attends SU, but their sentiments towards the app remain within the council.
“We don’t think it’s a good app for university life,” Delorme said. “We think it promotes stereotypical ideas and opinions on our organization, and often the negative outweighs the positive.”
Delorme added that the Panhellenic Council represents all sororities, fielding any rumors that emerge regarding the sisterhoods or their members. She said sororities often seem like an easy target on YikYak.
“Most of the time, the people saying these negative things aren’t even members of the organization they’re talking about.”
Despite a majority student senate vote in favor of banning YikYak, the legality of such a procedure was uncertain. Wilson ultimately concluded SGA could not ban the app without the First Amendment coming into question and used his power of veto.
“We talked to the university council, the university’s lawyers,” Wilson said. “We found the attorney general who would represent SU if this did go to court most likely would not look fondly at the school for [blacklisting YikYak] and it would be a very hard defense for them to do.”
Wilson said he sees both sides. While he believes it is not inherently a bad thing for students to have a place to speak freely amongst themselves anonymously, he recognizes it can create a toxic environment when discussions becomes hateful or threatening.
“I think there are anonymous forums online that are good — Reddit, for example, where there’s plenty of fine anonymous discussion,” Wilson said. “What bothers me is the combination of anonymity and proximity, that is where it can get dangerous. I’ve seen unsubstantiated rumors, racism, sexism, homophobia … and I think YikYak just breeds that.”
Schools like Johns Hopkins University have adapted a forum called Piazza, where students sign up with their student ID so any harmful comments can be traced directly to the poster.
Wilson indicated SU would be interested in bringing Piazza in as a more wholesome alternative for students, although it may not happen soon.
“It would be the perfect combination of eliminating the totally anonymous speech without repercussions while still having the fun community aspect, the campus in-jokes and such, of YikYak,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t come to light yet because not enough people in the Salisbury area have signed up.”
YikYak is not currently on the SGA’s agenda, but Wilson said he would not be surprised if concerns were raised again in future forums.
“Another incident is bound to happen soon enough. It’s a time-bomb.”
By RYLAND CRISMAN
Gull Life Editor
Featured image courtesy of Ryland Crisman