Yik Yak on campus and the tensions of public anonymity

This piece in The Seattle Times offers a fairly succinct view on the tensions being performed through students’ use of YikYak, the ‘public’ location-based messaging system in which one posts to a location’s public conversation through an app.

Since the growth in population of social media there has also been a growth in the ‘back channel’ at events such as conferences, a ‘second screen’ conversation around ‘appointment TV’ (at least according to the BBC), and from Facebook onwards, there has been a mediated conversation in the background of university lectures.

The students, especially, first years, take some delight in offering observations about the lecture material, the lecturer and so on – amongst the wider hubbub of conversation about pets, hangovers and the relative qualities and number of attractive people on campus.

However, this can spillover into insult. As noted in the BBC local news coverage of one brave lecturer’s response to insults on YikYak at Bristol.

The Seattle Times piece illustrates how, just as in other kinds of social media, a perception of anonymity and the opportunity to perform ourselves otherwise allows some of us to grant ourselves permission to say some appalling things.

I’ve used the example of Yik Yak, in relation to the performance of identity, in a first year lecture… it may have made some of them think… (or maybe not)


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