The Yik Yak Question: Worrying Anonymity or an Entertaining Voice for Durham Students?

It’s free, it’s anonymous, and it requires no username, profile or password; so it’s understandable why Yik Yak is considered a recipe for danger amongst student social butterflies.

Whilst Urban Dictionary calls it: “a mobile app college kids use to anonymously talk shit and post witty things to people nearby”, the app describes itself as a way of getting “a live feed of what everyone’s saying around you”, with the facility of “upvoting” and “downvoting” ensuring that malicious comments can be kept at bay through a form of self-policing.

However, the app has been the cause of worrying college and university incidents abroad: “I have been defamed, my reputation besmirched. I have been sexually harassed and verbally abused”, remarked Professor Margaret Crouch, after having read the 230 yaks made about her during her lecture at Eastern Michigan University. Yik Yak has also been used to issue violent threats such as proposals for gang rapes in some American campuses.

Closer to home Yik Yak is proving seemingly harmless and inoffensive. The Durham District School Board have not reported any incidents related to the new app, and Nick Pearce, a Teaching Fellow at Durham University’s Foundation Centre has noticed some benefits: when the university’s VLE (DUO), was down for maintenance, “the number of surprised and angry yaks did suggest that the way this was communicated could probably be improved”, and so Yik Yak has given students a voice for complaint that can be understood.

This anonymous digital bulletin board is undoubtedly popular here in Durham: a “top yak” by a student may get up to 500 “upvotes”, whereas in areas such as Hertfordshire a “top yak” has only 20.

Durham yaks all seem to focus on similar, topical aspects of our University:

The Bill Bryson Library – Its appeal has been increased, but its safe to say that productivity is at an all time low:

· “S/o to the girl on level 3 with a flip phone. I know you won’t be able to read this because of your flip phone” (316 upvotes)

· “The feeling of violation when someone shares your segment of the revolving door going into BB” (120 upvotes)

· “If this hits fifty we’ll get an Easter Egg hunt going in the Bill Bryson” (198 upvotes)

Inter-collegiate competition – it has become more ferocious, more dynamic, and slightly more questionable:

· “Hating your college but feeling an inexplicable sense of fierce loyalty whenever members or other colleges criticise it” (63 upvotes)

· “I wish Trevs was hexagone” (111 upvotes)

· “Trevs > Ebola” (97 upvotes)

· “Thanks to the wind in Durham today for blowing the strong whiff of entitlement and obnoxiousness from Hatfield all over town” (129 upvotes)

Clubbing in Durham – It would seem Wiff Waff has been renamed as the club for the edgy, whilst Klute is apparently more popular than one would assume:

· “I haven’t worn a bra since Friday night Klute. I love being a guy” (145 upvotes)

· “For every upvote, I’ll cut off a topknot in Wiff Waff tonight” (504 upvotes)

· “So the wiff-raff were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of Red Stripe danced in their heads. The girls loved the top knots and snap-backs a plenty, how good it feels being so f**king edgy” (209 upvotes)

· “Studio should do a postgrad night called Usti-nova” (158 upvotes)

Hot topics of Durham student life – the student/local divide, the recent river incidents, and the ever-changing weather. Students are enlightened with local news through this cyber network of witty remarks.

· “And here we see that rare and mysterious creature, the Durham local, roaming his natural habitat once more. After 2 months of hibernation, he returns to his hunting ground for orange women and bitter” (300 upvotes)

· “The excitement of sun in Durham soon turning to fear and self-loathing when you look at the mammoth task of constructing a beach body out of the Urban Oven induced car crash you have become” (102 upvotes)

· “Unfortunately 10,000 rubber ducks will not be thrown into the river for charity as planned today, due to strong winds making the current unsafe. So now they care about river safety…” (133 upvotes)

Overall, Yik Yak has succeeded in stimulating university-specific jokes within Durham. Of course, naming names within a yak is unacceptable, but most Durham Students have enough consideration and respect to “downvote” these yaks “out of the herd”, leaving only the banterous, witty and light-hearted comments to remain on one’s feed.

For those who haven’t downloaded Yik Yak already, it is definitely worth it as an on-trend method of sharing relatable aspects of university life. When work gets you down, simply check Yik Yak for an uplifting chuckle. To see the legendary yaks of Durham’s past, just like The Best of Durham Yik Yak on Facebook.

Warning: the Bill Bryson Library has now been advised to keep an eye on Yik Yak activity, so be careful when using it to suggest a mass flash mob on Level 3.

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