The dark side of anonymity: Yik Yak users reveal nothing and say everything

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More than 50 people met near the volleyball courts at Helaman Halls on a Monday night last month, but instead of playing a friendly game, students got friendly with each other.

“NCMonday” is an event that began on Yik Yak, one of many online tools to enthrone anonymity and enable users to anonymously post anything. And that means anything.

Many Yik Yak posts are humorous in nature and aren’t taken seriously. A reoccurring post advertises noncommittal make-out sessions known as NCMOS on and off campus. Many believe freshman students living in Helaman Halls began “NCMonday,” while others from Heritage claim to have started the event during a Family Home Evening activity.

Several Snapchat accounts were created to follow the late-night activities of students who meet up using Yik Yak.

Yik Yak provides a chatroom-style environment where users can submit tweet-like posts. The main feed picks up posts from within a 1.5-mile radius.

“Yik yak: the only social media site that allows me to lose respect for people without even knowing them,” an anonymous poster wrote.

The No. 1 Yik Yak rule, found on its information page, condemns bullying: “You do not bully or specifically target other yakkers.”

According to Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist who spoke to Fox News, Yik Yak is “the most dangerous app” invented.

“Psychologically, Yik Yak actually removes all pretense of being a person with empathy,” he said. “So it is no wonder that Yik Yak has become the ultimate tool for bullies, especially at the high school level, who want to target another student or a faculty member and — without any consequences, whatsoever — anonymously destroy that person’s reputation.”

Westlake High School in West Lake Hills, Texas, recently banned students from using Yik Yak at school because of bullying. The school placed filters on its wireless network, and other schools are following suit.

Students post shoutouts on Yik Yak like, “I love the BYU women’s soccer team!” Others confess that they’re “honestly tempted to sleep in the mother’s lounge in the bathroom instead of going to class.” Some anonymous users even ask for advice on dating, careers or whether to serve a mission.

A popular post offers suggestions to the university. “Hey BYU, here’s an idea: instead of giving prospective students rides on the golf carts, why don’t we give paying, attending students rides on the golf carts! #justathought.”

Landen Hajje, a junior from Amarillo, Texas, who studies business, said he enjoys these anonymous apps because they allow everyone to feel “related.”

“Everyone is thinking, struggling and enjoying the same experiences. It offers perspective. I don’t find it harmful if used with the slightest intelligence,” Hajje said.

Many users share personal struggles, ask serious questions or brag about how much homework or Netflix-watching they have accomplished.

“The anonymity of Yik Yak and Tinder are perfect for cool-cat anti-socialites like myself,” another anonymous poster wrote.

Jacie Epperson, a sophomore from Murray studying recreation management, said she has heard of Yik Yak but wouldn’t personally use it. “I don’t typically use social media to contact people I don’t know. Because of that, I don’t really have any anonymous apps on my phone,” Epperson said.

Tinder

The growing trend of anonymous posting and blind dating is a dangerous game to play. Three BYU male students created a fake Tinder account and lured 70 men to a Yogurtland last April. Their social experiment included false photos of Miss Teen USA Kendall Fein and flirtatious messages to each of their 250 matches.

Bowman Bagley, one of the Tinder test organizers, said he only expected five people to show up. Huffington Post covered the social media scam a year ago, but events and meet-ups like this happen even today.

BYU Crushes

The BYU Crushes Facebook page reveals personal letters, poems and date offers for students too shy to talk to their crush. Students can submit their crush shout-out through an anonymous page.

One anonymous user submitted a love note to a MOA security guard. “I don’t know who you are, but you’ve secured my heart. You were guarding the costumes, but all I wanted was for you to guard my heart.”

Some posts are honest and to the point. “Joseph Rich, you are the cutest. Ever. Marry me,” one post reads. Students may not say these things to their crushes in real life, but behind the screen, hearts open and words fly.

BYU Secrets

BYU Secrets is another Facebook page that allows students to share hidden thoughts in the online world. Many secrets involve serious issues on campus, but the Honor Code Office can’t take action against anonymity.

“Although the Honor Code Office (HCO) generally does not investigate reports given by anyone unwilling to identify himself or herself, the HCO reserves the right, in its discretion, to proceed with an investigation based on an anonymous report,” the HCO stated in its Administrative Review Process contract.

Some secrets don’t involve Honor Code or authoritative action.

“Secret” no. 167 says, “I’m here at BYU, and I am a huge metalhead. It’s really hard to find other people that like the same music that I do, much less find people to go to shows with. The dangers are evident, but the humor is even more entertaining.”

Some anonymous posts are neither dramatic nor offensive, and they offer a good laugh throughout the day. “Hockey is more enjoyable if you pretend they are fighting over the world’s last Oreo,” a Yik Yakker posted.

“It’s not a major part of social life but certainly a small joy to add to the day,” Hajje said.

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