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Yik Yak — Twitter without the handles.
The anonymous social media application hit the market in 2013, primarily targeting college students. It acts as a bulletin board where anonymous posters share their thoughts with Yik Yak users in a 10-mile radius.
According to Yik Yak Lead Community Developer Cam Mullen, the app is very popular on the Cal Poly campus.
In fact, 23 percent of Cal Poly undergraduates are on Yik Yak, Mullen said — and the San Luis Obispo community actually crashed the app’s servers in August.
The app is mostly known for its outlandish posts. For example, some samples from the Yik Yak feed include: “My anaconda … was actually drunk enough to consider some of that …,” “When you take that extra large bong rip & know things are gonna get freaking weird within the next few minutes” and the ever-so-classy “Up if you got a big cock.”
Some posts have malicious intent, targeting specific groups, such as Cal Poly greek life organizations.
Greek-focused messages include: “The Cardinals are making more errors than Pike,” “Guys don’t forget to check your mailboxes, there’s a ZBT bid in every mailbox this year!! #rushwasoptional” and one from a parody handle named prez Armstrong: “Lambda is hella gay lmao.”
When asked about the frequent negative comments on Yik Yak, Mullen said the company is working to make sure the feed doesn’t become too vulgar.
“As any social network, we realize that we have people that misuse the app, and we’re constantly working to calm that,” Mullen said. “Whether that’s us putting in filters looking for different ‘hot words,’ like bullying or racism words, and also we have a moderation team 24/7 that’s sifting through all the content trying to find people misusing it.”
Environmental management sophomore Madison Miyamura appreciated the app, but understood Mullen’s concern about people abusing it.
“I think that it is a really entertaining app,” Miyamura said. “It’s kind of cool how people can say whatever and not feel like they’re being judged, but it can get a little mean. A lot of times you’re going to say something that’s a lot meaner than you would if you weren’t anonymous.”
Yik Yak’s team has implemented precautionary measures to discourage misuse of the app, such as down-voting, a way for users to express their disapproval of a post.
Another measure is reporting, Mullen said.
“If you really think that a post is inappropriate and doesn’t belong on Yik Yak, you can report it,” she said, “and we have a moderation team that jumps on it and takes action, whether that’s deleting the post or suspending the user or whether that’s blocking the user forever.”
Mullen supports the app’s anonymity and sees it as a platform to share thoughts freely.
“By making it anonymous, it kind of levels the playing field,” Mullen said. “It doesn’t matter your race or gender, and people from completely different social circles are talking on Yik Yak.”
But not all users are fans of the app’s anonymity.
“Yik Yak is funny, but there’s no accountability,” political science freshman Isabella Chayet said. “People can post anonymously and so they say things that they would never actually say in real life.”
Though the app is entertaining, Mullen said it’s more about allowing people to voice their opinions rather than just posting funny comments.
“The real mission of Yik Yak is to create an open forum and give a voice to those that might not otherwise have one,” Mullen said.
Yik Yak plans to expand its user base with a fall campus tour. Traveling in a 45-foot tour bus, Yik Yak representatives will visit 36 college campuses along the West Coast, including Cal Poly.
“Last semester, Yik Yak just started to reach the West Coast,” Mullen said. “It started in the beginning of 2014. It started to spread in the Southeast at a bunch of big state schools. And then it started to make its way over to California right before the end of school.”
Despite criticism, Mullen stands by Yik Yak’s ability to bring people together through social media.
“When we go to college campuses, the people that come up to us are probably the most diverse groups of people ever,” Mullen said. “We love that so many different kinds of people can come on Yik Yak and communicate with each other.”