I’ve Been Thinking About YikYak…

So I’ve been meaning to get these thoughts down for a while; so why not today.

If you’re a student, or in any way involved in or work for a University; you’ll have no doubt noticed that it’s Students’ Unions’ “Election Season” – a time for people to step up and share their ideas for how to shape the University for the better of students (a pretty important job I would argue, given the year of Government cuts to Maintenance Grants, changes to Disabled Students’ Allowance and the looming Higher Education Green Paper) and stepping up in a time where Universities are having to rethink their budgets.

Well that’s all very interesting, I’m sure you’re thinking, but where does this leave YikYak?

Well in this week alone I have seen at least 5 people posting on Facebook about the horrific abuse some of my friends and colleagues have been receiving on this social media app. And it’s only Thursday.

With a bit more digging and a lot of intrigue, my nosing led me to find that it seems to be no more than the YouTube video comments section for the trolls; a place for the anonymous and spineless – not to criticise the policies or the practices of these candidates who are stepping up and wanting to make a difference – but a place to just write sheer abuse with apparent lack of consequence; only followed by more awful comments or a thumbs up or down.

Now when I was first introduced to YikYak, I saw it to be more of a land of quips and jokes, and I remember looking at Warwick University’s (which seemed to complain about transport) and then ending up on Coventry’s, which seemed to be more of a place for lost souls feeling lonely to have company – both didn’t seem too bad. Particularly the latter as heartbreak and loss can be the loneliest places. As I’m looking through Greenwich’s; I’m uplifted to see up votes on the harmless puns, sympathy for a chap who’s worked a 15 hour shift and one abusice comment that’s already received 4 down votes since its recent inception minutes ago.

Indeed I remember recommending Students’ Unions to use this app to find out some of the issues that were bothering students so you could fix them.

But now, once again, YikYak users are painting a really bad name for social media and for the individuals who are using it, and for the morale of the people who are already tired, working hard and trying to make Universities a better place for students just to have a ton of unyielded abuse thrown at them. I’ve run in SU elections before, and that kind of abuse would have probably defeated me.

I’m a lover of social media, and enjoy following the various companies and apps and their developments, but YikYak puzzles me. Recently they came to campus and gave out socks – getting some 250 people turning up for freebies – so they have an incredible pull (unless everyone just likes Yak socks and stickers).

So how do we solve the abuse?

This is more of an open question than anything. I’m in now way stating any new ideas, just things I’ve thought about to try make it a positive place (if even a possibility).

I don’t know if anyone remembers the “Spotted In” pages that crept up all over Universities. Reminds me of a similar playground to this. But one of the responses were that positive pages appeared where people could say nice things about each other.

  • Post some positivity on there – flood it with good messages. If I spot any abuse, I flood it with pictures of cats.
  • Vote people down – if their Yaks are flagged or reported repeatedly, then can get suspended.
  • Believe in you – this one goes to candidates in SU elections particularly but well done for even wanting to represent students in such a difficult time. If they can’t critique your policies you must be doing a good job.
  • It’s probably a phase – soon to be replaced by some other app.
  • Pressure YikYak to monitor more closely – but then they take no information about you so you could be anyone. Unless they just know.
  • Students’ Unions need to sing their own praises more. Only through education and talking to people do they learn what we do. We need to shout out more, sing about wins more and celebrate every bit of representation we do – and remember to keep doing that with students ever changing around us.

I spent one day with YikYak as my online social media device for an experiment and it was the loneliest place in the world. I can’t help but feel sad that people think it’s okay to say such awful things about each other in any capacity.

I’m not against free speech, I’m against free abuse. But then, when characters like Donald Trump are glorified and able to speak so hatefully about different groups of human beings I’m already questioning the world we live in.

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