Anonymous postings on social media app may lead to danger

Contributed Photo
‘Yik Yak’ seems to have blown up the social media world overnight. The app was meant to be a bulletin board for those around you, though it has caused issues in its short time in the spotlight.
App shows posts within local range

By Britnee Ganster
Managing Editor/Spectator

Yik Yak, the newest social media craze available on Android and iOS devices, has swept campus seemingly overnight. While the application can be a fun way for students to interact anonymously, Yik Yak raises many safety concerns for its users and communities across the country. 

When users open Yik Yak, the app displays dozens of posts within a 1.5 mile radius. Posts can range anywhere from one-liners stolen off Tumblr, angsty lyrics and campus observations to personal ads and bomb threats. From there, other users in close proximity can vote each post “up,” boosting it higher on the list and making sure more people see it, or “down,” which can eventually knock it into the negative numbers and off the page. 

Psychiatrist Keith Ablow of Fox News says Yik Yak “is the most dangerous form of social media (he’s) ever seen.” 

On Sept. 19, Ariel Omar Arias, a student at the University of Georgia, was arrested and charged with two felony charges after the police found out he was the one who posted terroristic threats on Yik Yak in the early afternoon. 

One of the buildings on the University of Georgia campus was put on lockdown after Arias ‘yaked’ “If you want to live don’t be at the MLC at 12:15.” Arias claims the threat was just a joke, but the police and the bomb squad did not take the threat as one. 

This was not the first instance of Yik Yak-related arrests since the app became available early in 2014.

Cyberbullying is also a major issue on Yik Yak. 

“Psychologically, Yik Yak actually removes all pretense of being a person with empathy, genuinely connected to other human beings,” Ablow said. “So it is no wonder that Yik Yak has become the ultimate tool for bullies.” 

Users have the ability to post whatever they want about whoever they want. However, in recent weeks, the app has become more heavily moderated and offensive “yaks” are often taken down within a short amount of time due to users reporting the “yak” or giving it a set number of “downs.” 

While there haven’t been any terroristic threats or severe cases of cyber bullying on Edinboro’s Yik Yak page, the app has brought a whole new perspective to social media to the campus.

On almost a nightly basis, students “yak” about any parties, hook-ups and even the skunk problem around the Highlands, all of which are innocent enough, but some go as far as to post their room numbers or phone numbers in an attempt to gain friends through the app. 

Students have mixed reviews of the app on campus, but they all tend to agree on one thing: it provides entertainment.

“Great app,” Senior Ryan Kerr said. “But people need to use it more for humor rather than hooking up and cyber bullying.” 

Many students agree with Kerr, including freshman Jessica Dietz who thinks the app is hilarious, but gets annoying quickly because of all of the people begging for hook-ups. 

“It’s a fun app but I think people need to stick to Tinder if they’re that desperate for hookups,” Freshmen Sydnee Crissman added.

Student Megan Howes admits she uses the app, like hundreds of other Edinboro students, but acknowledges the danger that can come along with it. “Some of the stuff people post, even though it’s anonymous, can come back to them. I’ve seen some posts about illicit activities and drinking on campus which can be traced back to them, which is something I don’t think users realize,” Howes said.

And she’s right. Like students are taught in elementary school about Internet safety, just because something claims to be anonymous, doesn’t mean it’s completely true. Authorities can trace IP addresses and GPS coordinates to pinpoint a more precise location. The app also logs all of the “yaks” from a specific device.

Britnee Ganster is the managing editor for The Spectator. She can be reached by edinboro.spectator@gmail.com