First it was Snapchat’s dancing ghost, then Tinder’s harmless yellow flame. Now we can add a cutesy spinning bovine head to the list of simplistic logos for apps that have the potential to really screw up our reputations.
Yik Yak, which launched in 2013, is widely described as an anonymous Twitter. “Yakkers” (an unfortunate coincidence if there ever was one) have 200 characters available to make a statement or ask a question without the backlash – or responsibility – that comes with a username.
Yaks are formatted almost identically to tweets. Since no one is identified, hashtags and the “@” symbol are basically for show, but we stick to what we know.
The difference between the two lies with each post’s feedback, which functions more like Facebook. Users can comment on a yak, as well as upvote or downvote it depending on whether they like or agree with it.
As with everything that’s supposed to be anonymous (*cough @Augieconfessions cough*), Yak has its issues. There’s really no secret tactic behind identifying someone without explicitly stating his or her name, so I predict it’s only a matter of time before people start getting their feelings hurt, if they haven’t already.
However, Yik Yak takes a great deal of care to avoid this. Users have to agree to rules before they post, the first and second of which are used to discourage bullying. They also include a zero tolerance policy on posting people’s phone numbers, as well as a promise to “do your part” in downvoting offensive content.
Also, don’t try using Yak anywhere but near a college. Get too close to an elementary or high school and the app is disabled, displaying a message that says Yak is only for adults.
For those of you who don’t want need any more social media in your life or for whom anonymity is simply too much of a temptation, you’re not missing that much. I can pretty much boil the posts you’d see down into these categories:
The “thirsty” post: We’ll just get this one out of the way right now. If this app has taught me anything, it’s that people within ten miles of me have dirty, dirty minds. They use Yak to shout out to other people’s various body parts, or to advertise their own skills in the sex department.
The Augie versus USF post: In case you weren’t aware, there’s a rivalry.
The “all I want” post: My theory behind this type of post is that they’re actually all written by one person. You know the type. He or she probably sends out several actual tweets an hour—which inexplicably get more favorites than you could ever dream of—about just wanting someone to cuddle with, watch Netflix with, drink hot chocolate with, etc. Okay, it’s actually me.
The genuinely funny post: This is a rare species of Yak (see what I did there?). They are relatable and clever without being offensive. Some, which I desperately wish weren’t anonymous or limited to 200 characters, even address issues like slut shaming, body image and pop culture.
Maybe someday we’ll all own up to our ideas and quit letting that cute little yak do our dirty work for us. Today is not that day. But if you’re willing to find these nuggets of humor in a mine of put-downs and objectifications and attempts to find pot dealers, Yik Yak might be worth looking into.