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The Carletonian

Social media anonymity: On the social impact of YikYak

When a Carl is looking for entertainment, they are able to open YikYak and find school-specific jokes. YikYak is an app that functions similarly to X (formerly known as Twitter), the major differences being that YikYak is anonymous, exclusive to college students and only shows users posts made within a five-mile radius. When someone creates an account, the app informs them that they should refrain from posting information that reveals their own or someone else’s identity — posts including people’s name are not allowed, and moderators work to handle reports of these. Ultimately, the app enables communication and humor between peers.

The app is not new to campus. Becky Reinhold ’25 said, “I feel like YikYak was a big thing my freshman year, and there’s been a resurgence this year. It feels like people are discussing more serious things on YikYak this year than before.”

The app is often used for entertainment purposes, as many students consider it a reliable source of comedy. Reinhold said, “Me and my roommate go through it and we find it funny… You do… get to hear from a larger group of people than you’d talk to normally, since sometimes by the end of term you’re only really talking to a small group of people.” The app is mostly used by freshmen, and some do feel that it starts to build a sense of community. Andrew Rose ’27 said, “I think there are definitely benefits to a source where students can place their thoughts without judgment.”

Both Reinhold and Rose have had major issues with the app, as conversations frequently progress past the humor. When Reinhold published an article in the Carletonian regarding the ongoing was between Israel and Hamas, she said, “I knew when I published my article it would be controversial, but I was expecting better from Carleton students in terms of discourse.” She took issue with the discourse that emerged on YikYak: there were many comments about her, with varying amounts of identifying information. She said, “a post with my name was taken down after a few reports, but other identifying information isn’t really taken down.” She said that “It’s maybe not the best platform for [politics],” suggesting that anonymity interferes with effective discourse.

Rose agrees with this and said, “I think someone can learn something from other people’s views, however, it’s dangerous to take that at face value without doing your own research or learning from actual educated people in the field.”

Max Fischer ’27, who has not been personally involved in the app’s political discourse, said, “The anonymity that comes with YikYak means that people are ultimately free from repercussions associated with more vulgar and aggressive speech that might otherwise not happen at Carleton.”

Aside from comedy and politics, the third major post category on YikYak are identity-questioning posts. Frequently, people will make posts joking about gender or LGBTQ+ issues without establishing their own identity. Rose said he understands why people who aren’t comfortable with themselves seek advice anonymously. However, he identifies an issue with how some of this is done, saying, “I’ve had a terrible experience with YikYak. I think what’s most important to remember is that YikYak is completely anonymous, so people who claim certain views or pretend to open up about certain things on YikYak are not always genuine because they can get away with whatever they want without anyone knowing it’s them.”

Essentially, not all of these posts are in good faith, and the anonymity makes it difficult to distinguish. Rose also advised that while comments aren’t harmful, users should be cautious of more direct communication: “Don’t ever direct message anyone from YikYak, because you never know who they really are. There really is full anonymity on YikYak, and it can be a bad situation to get into.”

While the app can be a good place to get a laugh and speak with friends, students seem to agree that it is not the place for serious conversations. Reinhold also said, “They changed the format. It used to be geography based. We would get the St. Olaf posts too, which was better.” From the freshman perspective, Fischer described the app as a good place to get involved with the community and said, “I think YikYak can be a fun space.”

Becky Reinhold ’25, one of the people quoted in this article, is Editor-in-Chief of the Carletonian.

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