Yik Yak: A Utopia at Swarthmore

Illustration depicting a green roadsign with a paradise concept. Blue sky background.

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Yik Yak is the epitome of social media – a place where faceless strangers speak to each other about the ins and outs of their lives, the issues that are eating away at their souls, or just random BS that pops into their head and cannot be left unsaid.

Yik Yak is first and foremost a great platform for gathering information. Just recently my friend was locked out of SwatNet because she forgot to change the password to her account. She ‘yakked’ asking how to fix this issue and few minutes later she got an answer.

But more importantly, Yik Yak is a place where people can spill their guts about their issues. Anonymity is a fundamental aspect of Yik Yak, and people refer to each other as “shovel” or “boot.” We rely on this strange communication system to make intimate conversations about our lives. More specifically, Yik Yak at Swarthmore is a utopia because users embody the respect for others that must come with the anonymity.

Yik Yak is not necessarily harmful to our real-life friendships because there are some things that we do not want to directly talk about, especially to our loved ones.This is not only because we are afraid of opening up, but also because we occasionally want to voice the random thoughts that come to our mind without being judged. Yik Yak is a cathartic space where we can voice the thoughts that cannot be contained within us or in a diary. Being human means that we want to interact with others and part of that translates to the desire to get responses and attention from others, even if they come from those we do not know.

This very open atmosphere where we can freely share our thoughts and issues also creates a sense of community. Reading through Yik Yak, people realize that many others their age are going through issues that are similar to their own.  The recognition that we are not alone gives us a sense of hope.

But Yik Yak is safe for us Swarthmore students, because our actions build this safe environment. Yik Yak is only a safe place when users respect one another. Anonymity often results in racism or sexism because people do not need to take responsibility for their comments. But Yakkers down post Yaks that they deem inappropriate, and many Yaks are supporting posts encouraging those who are down. Setting this kind of atmosphere is vital in order to create a safe space to share opinions.

Anonymity is a privilege and abusing it is very easy. Understanding that anonymity does not free one from the responsibility to respect others is essential to using Yik Yak and other anonymous social networks correctly.

Lisa Kato

Went to school in Japan from the age of 10 to 18. I play the violin, love to read and watch movies. I am interested in politics and economics and often write for the opinions section and news section.

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