Today on The Cut, high school senior Will Haskell explains how the anonymous, hyper-local gossip app Yik Yak brought his school "to a halt." In the grand tradition of confession sites like Juicy Campus, one girl at the school got the worst of the anonymous hate spewed by her peers.
Yik Yak, which launched in December 2013, "allows individuals to post comments anonymously, essentially operating as a Twitter without handles." It's similar to confession apps like Secret and Whisper, but it's worse, because it works in hyper-local zones like schools. If you're sitting in 4th period English, you can scroll through the app's newsfeed and see what everyone within a 1.5 mile radius is currently "confessing." The attacks turn personal, fast. Haskell, who attends Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut, explains what happened to a female student, "M.", on the first day Yik Yak hit their school:
She had come under more intense attack than most students ...
"I probably heard about 10–15 nasty things written about me, some of which I couldn’t even finish reading," M. says. "M. will let anybody anally finger her." "M. gave dome for $6."
While many students were criticized on Yik Yak, M. got completely singled out. M. tells Haskell, "I was shocked, mortified, and embarrassed. I then called my mom and told her I was leaving school." As of last Friday, she was still laying low at home.
Yik Yak may be new, but this pattern is not. When Juicy Campus launched in 2007, women got the worst of it. The site held gossip boards for different college campuses, which allowed students to anonymously decide which female students were the most promiscuous. In 2008, the most popular post was one discussing the "sluttiest sorority sister" at UC-Irvine. At the time, a junior at Baylor, who was also the subject of a "biggest slut" post, told The New York Times, "I'm trying to get a job in business. The last thing I need or want is this kind of maliciousness and lies about me out there on the Internet." The site shut down in 2009.
After Juicy Campus folded, similar sites stepped in to fill the void. College ACB became extremely popular in 2009. That year, a thread about a freshman girl at my college blew up with hundreds of posts naming all the guys she had (but obviously, probably hadn't) slept with. She transferred schools at the end of the year. College ACB is no more, but now students have access to the same technology right on their phones.
Staples High School administrators stopped their Yik Yak problem by blocking the app on school grounds. Yik Yak is still going strong, however, having just raised $1.5 million in funding. Copycat apps will surely develop to serve Yik-Yak-banned campuses. Despite the fact that these sites and apps always, always devolve into female character assassination, Yik Yak founders Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll think their app is a force for good. On Yahoo! Finance, they cite an example some college students using Yik Yak "to raise money for a fellow student undergoing treatment for cancer."