Yik Yak: harmless fun, or social media overload?


In the past months here in St Andrews, we have seen an insurgence of the phenomenon that is Yik Yak. If you haven’t already had the pleasure of experiencing it for yourself, it’s essentially an anonymous Twitter that directs you towards posts based upon your location.

With Yik Yak, anyone with a thought that’s two hundred words or less can share it, anonymously, with the St. Andrews student community.

And like any decent social media app, you can up- and down-vote others’ content. By posting Yaks and voting on others, you earn something called ‘Yakarma’.

When I was first informed about Yik Yak’s existence, I was hesitant but curious, so I downloaded the app and explored. A few posts were funny, a few weren’t, and a few were completely nonsensical. On that initial look-through, the content was disappointing. But that was months ago, and since then our St. Andrews-based Yik Yak feed has seen tremendous improvements both in terms of post frequency and content.

Yik Yak is addicting. I find myself scrolling through it when I have a free minute. I am now greeted into my home with “Kathryn did you see the yak I posted?! Could you tell which one was mine? I got a hundred up votes!!”

For some reason, because yaks are anonymous, the up votes carry so much more weight. They suggest that people out there actually did think what you had to say was funny. If they didn’t, they would have down voted it. A strong influx of up votes has you walking around like a king for days.

In that sense, Yik Yak can be quite the confidence builder. Conversely, Yik Yak can be quite the confidence killer if you’ve posted a yak you presumed would be well received but ended up getting five down votes in the first twenty minutes.

Because Yik Yak feeds are based upon location, you can switch to another location and view their feed at any time. With a few seconds worth of glancing at the feed of some American universities, it becomes clear that we here at St. Andrews are the only ones who know how to do Yik Yak properly.

Some of our latest St Andrews Yik Yak highlights include; “There is now a Ryanair flight from the quad to DRA,” “Going on a diet where I just sleep from one meal to the next to prevent snacking,’” and the timeless advice “drink your school, stay in sleep, don’t do milk, and get eight hours of drugs”.

While perhaps not capturing the St Andrews student from our best angle, it gives quite amusing insight into what we as a student body are thinking about. Yaks allow us to complain about our procrastination, satirise our own drinking habits, to share in our seemingly all-encompassing, mutual sexual frustration with hundreds of anonymous others.

Yik Yak is all good fun here in St Andrews, but in other places it hasn’t all been laughs. In New Jersey for example, Yik Yak was used by students to distribute a sex tape without the permission it its subject. Some universities have also seen Yik Yak used to propagate sentiments of racism and sexism- both attitude that have yet to pervade the St Andrews Yik Yak scene.

At Kenyon College in Ohio, USA, several different post were made slashing members of a certain sorority and making jokes regarding gang rape. Although the responses to these posts have been overwhelmingly negative, perhaps Yik Yak is encouraging people to express their controversial feelings protected by a veil of anonymity. Still more concerning, Yik Yak has also been used to propagate violent threats. In Cincinnati, Ohio, a teenage boy threatened a shooting on his local high school. While the school did shut for the day, nothing came of it and the culprit was quickly identified.

So, should Yik Yak be banned from St Andrews? I’d have to say no. As far as St Andrews goes, Yik Yak remains a harmless source of entertainment and a convenient outlet for our everyday speculations. But we should realise that this new social media platform has the potential to become something harmful, should we let it. For now, I’ll definitely continue scrolling through my Yik Yak feed and occasionally posting in the hopes that people think I’m clever. Maybe tomorrow I’ll come up with something new to say about how far DRA is.


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