“Anonymous apps on the rise across college campuses”

There was a good story about Yik Yak the other day on the Michigan Radio show “Stateside” and it’s up on their site now:  “Anonymous apps on the rise across college campuses.” It’s a twelve and a half minute interview with the U of M’s Director of Social Media Nikki Sunstrum. Among other things, Sunstrum talks about meeting/talking with the folks who developed the app and their vision of it– they see themselves as a “more democratic Twitter.”

She also talked about the proactive approach to the app that they’ve taken at U of M. For example, there’s this post on the social media blog at U of M from back in September about Yik Yak.  That too is definitely worth reading because it explains what the app is and it also offers some solid advice for dealing with the cyberbullying/harassment problem that comes with this level of anonymity. Here’s a quote:

It’s up to us to change the tone of the yaks. Up-vote positive yaks that speak to us as Umich students, down-vote the yaks that can be degrading or hurtful to others, and flag hateful posts. By doing this we shape our common voice in a supportive way. Even though Yik Yak is anonymous, we can still step in to to stop the bullying found on this platform. If you see yaks about abuse or self-harm, suggest our student support resources link: http://studentlife.umich.edu/studentsupport. Our university also has resources such as CAPS, SAPAC, and our 24 hour helpline for those in need of professional help.

Yik Yak can be a way to share the hilarious and absurd thing you saw while studying in the UGLi. It can be the outlet you introduce a difficult issue that’s on your mind. It can be a way to anonymously reach out for support when you need it. Yik Yak is a culture-sharing medium. It’s hilarious and it’s entertaining. It can be distressing or it can be uplifting. It can connect us or tear us apart. Regardless of how you use Yik Yak, these fleeting posts have an impact on us.


2 thoughts on ““Anonymous apps on the rise across college campuses”

  1. I heard that interview, too. I thought it was very well done. The excerpt from the UM blog that you posted here is also nice, if somewhat platitudinous.

    But – and this matters to me, at least – the blog excerpt, while offering solid general advice, does not address the more complicated issues of workplace harassment, or of inappropriate student behavior during class time, that were raised by the EMU situation. I recognize that the blog post itself wasn’t intended to address such matters (since it was written by someone at UM and was before the EMU incident occurred) but I guess I am wondering whether you posted this excerpt to suggest that this is how the EMU incident should be viewed/handled/understood? Because if so, I don’t think that’s enough.


    • I think the infamous Yik Yak incident at EMU has unfortunately conflated two different problems/issues (maybe three different things) into one thing for lots of people on campus. That is, there’s a problem with dealing with inappropriate student behavior, and (in probably a different but related issue) there’s the issue of students harassing teachers. Then there’s the issue of social media apps like Yik Yak. The union and a lot of other people have conflated this into one thing– that is, Yik Yak = harassment– and their solution is to this has been to ban Yik Yak. That’s wrong.

      Now, “inappropriate behavior” obviously comes in a lot of flavors, and I’d say about 90% of the problems come down to teachers learning/developing some classroom management skills. I think everyone who teaches has different strategies for dealing with that. Harassment, bullying, misogynistic comments and all of that is more serious, and I think the approach at EMU should be to offer clarification about what faculty can and can’t do about it, along with some basic education and discussion across the academic community at EMU (students and everyone else). As I’ve said several times already about this over the last couple months, I think the administration has assumed that by making the campus safer for students, it makes it safer for faculty and staff too. As some of the incidents about students harassing faculty makes clear, that’s not always the case. For example, it seems kind of like a no-brainer to me that if a teacher has a restraining order out on one of her students, then that student ought to be removed from her class.

      So no, I don’t think that blog excerpt addresses the more complicated issue of workplace harassment or inappropriate behavior generally. But it does offer a way of addressing these issues on Yik Yak. As I read it, the U of M folks are telling the student body in this blog post (and this was discussed in the show in some detail too) that a) we’re paying attention to what’s happening on Yik Yak, b) think twice before you post something obviously hateful, and c) as a community, students should step up and be out front in trying to vote down that bad behavior.


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