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Friday, November 14, 2014

Yik Yak Yuk

Let's be clear about this. People have been crude and rude forever. I mean, just watch Game of Thrones. The internet has simply changed the nature of boorish and hostile behavior. Just read any comments section on any post to witness the pattern of trolls stirring up trouble, counter-arguing, policing grammar, and getting all charged up over nothing. It is like Disney. It's mostly make believe.

When JuicyCampus came on the scene people were outraged. Indeed, bullying and other horrible things have happened as a result of the internet and social media. That site was shut down because of the resulting harassment and personal attacks on students. But other sites have replaced it. Currently Facebook's Trinity Confessions and Overheard at Trinity pages are making way for a new site called Yik Yak.

This is a location-based app that allows people who are in proximity to one another to post anonymously. It has some advantages to it, in that posts are pretty fleeting (as new posts come in, old ones drop off). People can up-vote or down-vote posts as well as reply. If a post is down-voted five times it disappears. Generally people cannot be identified by name.

As far as these things go, Yik Yak isn't the worst. Generally, people want to invite others to have sex, bemoan having a cuddle buddy, or try to be witty. Popular posts often start with "When..." as in, "When you are at a party and they run out of beer..." 

Obviously I check out Yik Yak from time-to-time. I think it is important to know what is out there that is engaging some of our students. If you are on the app you can search for other schools to see what is being said. Most reasonable people will immediately wonder how it works... for people on an anonymous site to ask for sexual favors, because it makes zero sense. But that hasn't stopped the masses. 

My biggest issue with the app is that while I have only posted once or twice, my posts have been down-voted into oblivion. One of them was of the "When..." kind, which I clearly had not thought through. Here is another example. Because of our proximity to SAC and Incarnate Word, it is difficult to sometimes discern the higher education institution of origin. The posts are co-mingled. I am often hoping the worst of the posts are not from Trinity. So my post was simply this: "If the source is not otherwise obvious, why not use #Trinity or #UIW?" This was a very productive suggestion. But boom. Off. Like, immediately.

I told my wife about this on our way to a movie that night. And we did not have a fight about it that she won. But she said that I shouldn't "play in the students' sandbox." I was not playing in their sandbox. I just wanted to understand it. She said students could sniff out a grown-up in a second. So, I was voted down by the students and my wife - who told me not to take it personally. And yet "Just applied to be Wacka Flacka's blunt roller. Wish me luck" is trending up with 35 affirmative votes as I write this. What a stupid sandbox.

But I had a plan, which was to post this: "This is the Dean, and I thought my post about using a hash

I no longer become angry or get all high and mighty about these sites. The arguments for or against are always the same. But here are some observations gleaned over the years:

1. Most of what is out there is trashy: sexual, fecal, and anti-social. It is like a Student Affairs meeting.
2. Most of the things are posted to elicit responses.
tag to specify the campus being cited was a great idea!" Then someone would have posted: "Is this Dean Tuttle from TU or Dean Moore from UIW?" To which my response would have been: "Exactly!" That would have been my throw down the mic moment on Yik Yak. But my wife, who is NOT the boss of me, wouldn't let me post any more. And she IS my cuddle buddy after all.
3. Most of the responses are meant to elicit reactions.
4. Many of the things posted on anonymous social media sites are not true, are exaggerated, or unverifiable.
5. If the electronic mob follows it, then people will engage with it. If you don't like it... Ignore it. Rock beats scissors, mob beats reason.
6. You can't permanently stop these sites unless they are literally criminal. It emboldens people and they find other channels to migrate to anyways.
7. It will pass. It always does, because it eventually becomes boring. And then a new platform arises. And then it passes.
8. Even if someone posts as a female, it is probably a male.
9. This is like a sport for bored people or those taking a break from work and study.
10. Sometimes grown-ups, or even deans, get sucked into these things.

Last year I was pretty much run off of Overheard at Trinity when I simply joined to retrieve memes of me for a blog post. Geesh. I have learned my lesson. I may check out Yik Yak from time-to-time, to, er, be effective at my job... But I won't be playing any more. Too much sand.


Amy said...

Yik Yak may not be as harmless as you think. Lewis and Clark College has had to upgrade security measures after someone posted racially charged comments and in response someone posted an image of a gun. These are the latest in a string of threatening Yik Yak posts according to the Oregonian. I think anonymous sites in general can be a bad idea.

6th Ave Home Owner said...

This website/social media was responsible for two schools shutting down in San Diego on Friday because of false threats of shooting students.

Can't see that there is any benefit to the community to have anonymous postings.