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Cut YikYak some slack

October 15, 2021

This piece represents the opinion of the author.
Sophie Lipset

I can’t imagine that anyone reading this doesn’t know about the app YikYak. Even though its popularity is waning, the app remains controversial on campus. I personally love the impact of the app at Bowdoin, so I wanted to outline why.

First, YikYak is fun! My house’s midnight Yak sessions are some of my best memories of my semester so far—laughter is a great way to bond with friends and calm down after a tough day of studying. And there’s nothing like the feeling you get when someone praises your Yak without knowing you wrote it. It’s almost as addictive as that other six-letter app.

It’s also the fastest news source on campus. Where else would you look for the Supers menu or for details about what happened at Quinby last Friday? Using YikYak to spread information helps form and solidify student opinion on hot-button campus issues. That allows us to protest the administration without using Bowdoin institutions like the BSG.

YikYak has helped to socialize me into Bowdoin culture. My YikYak feed sometimes feels like a guide for navigating social life at Bowdoin. I’ve learned that my entire sophomore class is too slow at Moulton, that campus was way better when we weren’t here and that several upperclass students were disappointed to get sophomores as their Marriage Pact matches. (I’m sensing a theme.)

On a personal note, the app has helped me better understand myself. I’ve never been the biggest fan of social media, and I rarely post on my Instagram or Snap stories. But since YikYak came around, I’ve gotten used to posting whatever’s on my mind publicly, and I’m starting to like the idea. I’ve realized that my problem with social media stems mostly from a fear of being judged. Because YikYak’s anonymity protected me from this fear, it’s a great gateway to becoming a more outgoing person. If not for YikYak, you wouldn’t be reading this.

I’m sure many would agree that YikYak has allowed them to express thoughts that would have stayed unsaid without an anonymous way to share them. But when everyone’s deep thoughts are out there, it can comfort those who feel the same. The app exposes everything from extremely awkward encounters (“thanks for holding the door!” “You too!”) to stressing over work to serious loneliness and anxiety. As a result, YikYak provides solidarity to those struggling mentally.

Sure, most Yaks are exaggerated or outlandish. No, they would never have said anything that deeply personal in real life, even to close friends. And no, their NAVICA proctor didn’t literally do that. But exaggeration helps put real life in perspective, like listening to an intensely emotional song or watching a horror movie does. Crazy yaks are the same.

YikYak isn’t perfect—some posts attack people ad hominem, express a desire to be less “PC” or seem to romanticize suicide. While outright hateful yaks always get downvoted to oblivion, these surviving posts might cause serious harm, and that’s not okay.

But zooming in on YikYak’s problems mistakes the forest for the trees. Overall, the app has helped much more than hurt.

So, joke about the undiscussed parts of Bowdoin life until you can’t stop laughing. Get instantaneous news, make serious confessions or exaggerate the hell out of whatever just happened at Super Snack. Yak away!

Jacob Trachtenberg is a member of the Class of 2024.

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