Yakkity Yak: Baldwin Wallace Campus Talks Back

Like many other college campuses across the country, Baldwin Wallace’s 2014-2015 school year may go down as the year of the Yak—that is, Yik Yak, one of the newer additions to the year’s many social media apps.
The microblogging app, created by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington in late 2013, has soared to immense popularity with college students around the nation. As controversies mount, the app’s usefulness and necessity are being questioned.
Though the intended audience for the app was originally collegiate ages and older, children in high schools and middle schools were also downloading and utilizing the app when it was first released.
Subsequently, heated discussions regarding the possibility of increased cyberbullying were sparked around the country. Yik Yak’s officials responded by limiting access based on one’s geolocation, blocking access to the app if the individual’s location was within the range of a high school or middle school campus, leaving college students as the app’s primary users.
Due to the anonymity granted by the application, off-color humor often takes precedence in the Yik Yak feed; the occasional appearance of misogyny, racism, and harassment appear right alongside light hearted posts of sarcasm or brunt humor circulating through the timeline as well.
However, a fine limit between harmless humor and what eventually can merge into personal attacks and destructive behavior. Those who attended BW last year—like senior Kevin Reed—remember the last major campus social media craze that tested similar boundaries: “[Yik Yak]’s basically BW Confessions 2.0, isn’t it?”
BW Confessions was, according to many students, a Twitter account that allowed for a similar type of anonymous communication. Individuals would send information to the account, either directly or through the direct messaging system on Twitter, and the account’s handler would then send the information to its followers in tweets.
BW Confessions—no longer an active presence on Twitter—operated largely upon the same principles that the Yik Yak app has taken advantage of and yielded much of the same mix of comedic observations and harmful attacks naming names.
Junior international studies and film major, Elise Bigley, gets the appeal of the app, but also sees the harm: “I think it started out as entertaining but has now become a place to vent, start drama, and air other people’s dirty laundry,” Bigley said, also appropriately noting that there seems to be a general decrease in Yik Yak usage since last semester.
Though the app has been primarily used for harmless, vulgar humor, the app has had some positive impact and use on campus. For example, various resident assistants around campus utilize the app to monitor activity on and around their floors in case intervention is necessary.
“We don’t look through the app looking for questionable events” said one RA. “We simply go on the app as students, and if we see something that may require attention, we might look into that.” Other sources note that Yik Yak has also served as a great way for people struggling with mental health issues to get a surprising amount of support while remaining anonymous.
As for campus collectivity, organization leaders and even campus officials can utilize the app’s immediate, widespread access to promote various events occurring around campus.
Yik Yak—unlike anonymous Twitter accounts and Facebook pages—is not run by a single student or group of students, but the entire participating student body; that is to say, Yik Yak is a direct reflection of the best and worst of the BW corpus’s humor and anonymous expression.
Such as the flash-flood nature of many social media crazes, there are many students who have not and may never download the app, along with many students who have deleted the app or who have simply stopped using it.
As sophomore Cameron Stephens said, “I honestly didn’t know [Yik Yak] existed until you told me about it.”