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Opinion: Yik Yak comes back, stirs controversy

As the old saying goes: out with the old, in with the new. But wait, haven’t we already seen Yik Yak before? Indeed, the social media app that was shut down in 2017 has made a comeback, and Rollins students are either all for it or against it. 

About four years ago, the social media phenomenon was taken offline due to allegations of hate speech and the facilitation of cyberbullying. The anonymity that users experience when posting on Yik Yak is what makes the app so popular amongst college students: people can say and post whatever they want without the fear of consequence. 

When a user posts on Yik Yak, everyone within a five mile radius can see and interact with anonymous posts by either commenting or voting them up or down. The idea of no one knowing who posted is what still makes Yik Yak intriguing, so it is no surprise that the Rollins community has been interested in this app since its reintroduction in mid-August

Students may remember receiving an email just two weeks ago from Dean of Students Leon Hayner. In this email titled “Bias-Related Threats via Social Media,” Hayner addressed how several groups and organizations at Rollins had been targeted within the social media app. 

According to the email, Yik Yak “broadly threatened members of the Student Government Association (SGA), made derogatory comments about individual students’ sexual orientation and gender, and threatened to vandalize Pinehurst Cottage.” The email then stated that there would be increased efforts to support those who felt targeted and that staffing measures would be made to monitor both the app and places on campus where threats had been directed. 

Hayner said that “while posts are anonymous, complete anonymity is not guaranteed. Yik Yak can and will provide user data to law enforcement as stated in their policy. Students should consider what type of community, including the online community, they want to create. Students should consider this golden rule when posting comments: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” 

Hayner said that Rollins is currently in the process of collecting information and statements as part of their Yik Yak investigation. When asked how he suggests students use this social media platform, Hayner said that “students can choose whether to engage in the use of the app or not. I hope that students would engage on the app in the same way they would engage with each other in the classroom, our residence halls, and dining center. Much of what appears to be happening on Yik Yak does not align with the values of our community. Students have the power to change that.”

There is a fine line between innocent, laughable jokes being posted on Yik Yak and the threatening, offensive, or harassing behaviors that have been seen on the app within recent weeks. Due to the lack of tangible repercussions, students often feel as though they are protected by their anonymity. But that does not mean that words can’t hurt. 

Payden Knettles (‘25) said, “As a niche-micro celebrity on Yik Yak, it feels good when one of my Yaks gets upvoted a lot. I like to see that other people relate to the jokes I post […] Yik Yak really brings the Rollins community together, both in a good way and bad way. Gossip is easily spread through the app and it doesn’t help since Rollins is a small campus; everything is bound to spread.”

Payden said that he recognizes that posts can be offensive because he has been affected by the negative posts himself. 

“Like any other social media website or application, there will be cyberbullying and unwanted or inappropriate comments toward people or groups,” Payden said. “The swim team was recently targeted in a lot of Yik Yak posts. As a swimmer, some of them were actually pretty funny, but others were concerning and rude. It made me confused as to why someone would attack a fellow Rollins student.” 

When using Yik Yak or any social media platform remember to post with care; keep in mind that what you choose to say can and will affect others. Happy Yak-ing!

The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur or Rollins College.

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