The Yak is back: Anonymous social media app Yik Yak makes a resurgence on college campuses

Yik Yak social media app
Photo by Claire Keener

The anonymous social media platform, Yik Yak, has made its comeback after four long years. After its launch in 2013, the app grew its following with over 1.8 million downloads. 

Yik Yak was taken down shortly after its fame in 2017 due to the removal of anonymity and countless reports of cyberbullying which resulted in a loss of funding. The company, once valued at $400 million, sold itself to Square for only $1 million. 

Yik Yak allows users to anonymously post and comment on local boards within a five-mile radius making it irresistible on college campuses. Users can downvote and upvote comments to increase or decrease its visibility on the app. If a post receives five downvotes it’s automatically removed from the posting board. 

“Yik Yak is just Twitter for unfiltered college students,” said sophomore civil engineering major Jordann Morton.

Many negatives emerged regarding the app’s anonymity. In 2014, a school in Massachusetts received multiple bomb threats on Yik Yak which led to two school evacuations. Other schools reported arrests after threats of school shootings and racial violence were posted on the app.

Yik Yak social media app
[Yik Yak allows users to post to anonymous forums within a five mile radius of their location, making the app very popular among college students.]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

Yet, the Yak prevailed with around $6.2 million in seed funding as it returned to students’ phones across the nation in 2021. 

The team’s new mission statement suggests openness and authenticity within local communication. New features and media types are said to be coming to the app in the near future. 

Yik Yak’s website includes mental health resources, community guardrails and “Stay Safe Resources” in an attempt to combat the site’s inevitable toxicity.

“We brought Yik Yak back because we believe the global community deserves a place to be authentic, a place to be equal and a place to connect with people nearby,” states the Yik Yak team. “We want to be the world’s dominant mode of local communication. We’re working hard to make Yik Yak more engaging, more fun and more accessible to users in different countries and with different device types.”

Boise State students have embraced the app’s return. However, there continue to be hesitations in how the app is truly being used around campus. 

“I think Yik Yak is entertaining to an extent,” said sophomore health sciences major Jillian Means. “I think it’s easy for people to hide behind platforms, but for a platform’s purpose [being] to hide is interesting.” 

A student from Northwest Nazarene University commented saying his sister who attends Boise State was unwillingly caught in a roommate scandal that blew up publicly across the app.

Morton described Yik Yak as a large group chat within the university. She said she originally downloaded the app to stay in tune with activities happening on the weekends. However, she said she’s stuck with it because it’s become a source of humor for her and many other users. 

However, colleges grow worrisome of the effects anonymous comments have on their campuses. The local College of Idaho in Caldwell attempted to outright ban the app on its campus, going as far as asking the company to install a “geo-fence” around college campuses.

Yik Yak responded, “Ask nicely and we will build it for you.”

The company has expanded its fences to middle schools and high schools in an attempt to prevent bullying amongst the younger generation. 

Means and Morton both agreed, however, that the app brings lots of laughter and interesting insights from their peers. 

“You’ll scroll through the app and just can’t help but laugh at some of it,” Morton said.

As with any anonymous social media platform, negative comments are almost inevitable. However, Morton explains that although negative comments can appear, Yik Yak users are quick to combat them. 

Although new attempts have been made in combating the app’s past destruction, college campuses and students themselves continue to worry whether the pros outweigh the cons.

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