From The Chronicle of Higher Education from last weekend comes “Responding to Offensive Posts on Yik Yak, Professors Stage Social-Media Takeover.” Just a very brief primer here: Yik Yak is a smart phone app that allows users to post anonymous messages to an ongoing conversation tied to a particular place. So if you sign up for this at EMU, you get “Yaks” from folks on campus at EMU.
Here’s a screen shot of what Yik Yak looked like to me this morning:
This is actually kind of a bad example because a lot of the conversation on Yik Yak is some combination of rude, silly, sexist, drunken, etc.– a lot of posts by people who are claiming to be high, people looking for sex, people using naughty words, etc. And Yik Yak has definitely been abused and a problem. As I understand it, there was a bomb threat at MSU this last semester that originated on Yik Yak. I know of at least one quite controversial Yik Yak “event” that did much to derail a class here at EMU. And as this article discusses, a lot of Yik Yak has been a problem for a lot of folks teaching at Colgate University.
However, instead of accusing the “kids today” of being so much worse than the “kids” of yesteryear (and spoiler alert– as far as I can tell, college students today are just as rude/drunken/sexist/silly as they were when I was a college student in the 1980s, and if the movie Animal House is any guide, students have been rude/drunken/sexist/silly for a long long long time) and instead of calling for the ban of the service from campus, the faculty at Colgate had a much more constructive solution. Here’s a quote:
At the end of a semester plagued by offensive social-media posts, professors at Colgate University on Friday started a campaign to bring some positivity to digital communications on the campus.
Using the smartphone application Yik Yak, which allows people to submit anonymous comments visible to other nearby users, professors posted positive messages to students, wishing them luck on their exams, praising their work, and infusing an uplifting tone into the digital discourse. Unlike most users, the professors signed their names to their posts.
“Yik Yak has been a source of aggravation for people in the campus community,” said Geoff Holm, an associate professor of biology who developed the idea to “occupy” the app. “If this is going to be something that is driving campus culture, it’s important for faculty to have a presence.”
Valerie Morkevicius, an assistant professor of political science, said she hopes that seeing professors use Yik Yak will encourage students to think before posting potentially offensive comments.
“Maybe they would not be so free in saying some of the things they say if they know people whose opinions they care about are reading,” she said. “For me, what’s really great about this idea is it’s a way we can reach out to our students where they are. Our students live in this digital world, and we can help them navigate it more responsibly. We’re using their own media to try to reach them on some different levels.”
So if you care about the Yik Yak (and frankly, I’m not sure if I care about people posting anonymously about whatever rude/sexist/drunken/silly things), go on their and wish everyone a big thumbs up on their finals.