What the Yak?

One student’s response to the anonymous world of Yik Yak

Story by Kate Niestrom, Staff Writer

As a student about to go into my second semester as a junior, it is hard not to feel like I’m getting really old. Ridiculous, I know, but as the real world looms closer, it’s hard not to think about the days that have already gone by.

In times like these, I like to indulge in some of the things that the kids are talking about to make myself feel young again. This is how I found myself downloading the smartphone app, Yik Yak.

My roommate introduced me to it first, bursting into my room at 10 p.m. one night to tell me Towers North had flooded. I quickly grabbed my phone and scrolled through Twitter, searching for details on what had happened, but I found nothing about it.

She rolled her eyes at me and said, “You won’t find anything about it on there, but it’s all that anyone’s talking about on Yik Yak.”

For those who are unfamiliar with the app, Yik Yak works as a sort of anonymous Twitter that provides a stream of random thoughts coming from anyone within a 1.5 mile radius. If you like a certain “yak” or think it’s funny, then you up-vote it. If you really don’t like it, you can down-vote it. If a yak gets a certain amount of up-votes it goes on the “most popular” list, and if it gets more than five down-votes it disappears from the feed.

Immediately after downloading the app I was hooked. Everything that’s said on it is relatable because almost everything on it is typed by a UW-Eau Claire student. Although the reliability of the app as a news source is questionable at best, if something crazy happens on campus, it’s a sure bet that someone on Yik Yak is weighing in on it.

While many social media sites are a way for people to put their best face forward, Yik Yak is different because in some ways, it allows you to put forward your worst.

There are some things on Yik Yak that I know would never make it onto someone’s Twitter feed, and I’m sure that some of that is intentional. The more outrageous the yak, the more popular it often becomes. But it is also a way to feel like the embarrassing parts of our lives we would never want to be associated with are things people all over campus are going through as well.

I stressed that Yik Yak is used mostly by underclassmen, or kids as I endearingly refer to them, because many of the yaks I see are about dorm life and getting used to being away from home.

To me this makes perfect sense. I remember being a freshman and feeling like I had a million things to say but wasn’t close enough with anyone yet to share them. On any given night, Yik Yak will be filled with thoughts about bad roommates, terrible eating habits and poor life decisions.

All comments left on yaks are anonymous as well, allowing people to be brutally honest in every aspect of the app.

More than anything, Yik Yak is a way to make people feel like they fit in, and after about 20 minutes of scrolling through dorm horror stories and Towers Wi-Fi complaints, I’m not feeling so bad about my status as an off-campus-living junior anymore.

So yak on, my fellow Yik-Yakkers, and just know I will be here to reminisce, enjoy and ride the yak right along with you.