While students largely consider Yik Yak to be a peer-dominated outlet for anonymous posting, faculty members are not naïve when it comes to the “Yakking” phenomenon.

“I’m a little surprised that much of the chatter can fit into three categories,” said Assistant Professor of German Jens Klenner. “The weather, food—in its various stages of production, whether before or after digestion—and sex life on campus.”

Yik Yak is a social media app used for posting anonymous messages that has become popular at Bowdoin over the past two years. Users can view the messages, or “Yaks,” within a 10-mile radius and vote on whether a Yak is good or bad. However, the students are not the only ones drawn to the app. 

“You would be surprised by the number of faculty members across this campus that have Yik Yak on their phone,” said Klenner.

Faculty members have found it both enjoyable and surprising to observe the sentiments that unguarded students have expressed.

“It’s really fascinating, you get access to this collective id of Bowdoin,” said Assistant Professor of English Maggie Solberg. “A lot of us study human nature, it’s hard not to be interested in Yik Yak. You’re here—you’re an anthropologist, you’re a sociologist, you’re not going to use this tool?”

Solberg explained that while at times Yik Yak can be too sobering to her view of the student body, it provides an unusual insight into the campus zeitgeist.

“You really put your finger on the pulse of the culture,” said Solberg.

Visiting Instructor in History and Asian Studies Tristan Grunow noted that while he no longer has the app, he enjoys talking to colleagues about the Yik Yak culture on campus.

“When I had it, when we [faculty members] would get together and hang out, we would read through it and be like ‘Oh, that’s kind of funny,’” said Grunow. “I saw a lot of jokes about pooping.”

Despite all the fecal and sex jokes, Solberg explained that after talking to colleagues at other colleges about their Yik Yak culture, Bowdoin’s level of discussion was far more enlightened.

“I remember us junior faculty joking how nerdy the Bowdoin Yik Yak voice is,” said Solberg. “It’s very charming; it’s a very intellectual Yik Yak; it’s often very high minded.”

However, Solberg explained that reading it became too depressing during finals period and she has since deleted the app.

“The level of hysteria during exams? It reminded me of myself as an undergrad and as a high school student, but it’s a part of yourself, as an adult, that you want to forget,” she said.

While he enjoys actively reading the usually clever and humorous Yaks, Klenner noted anonymity can lend itself to abusive language or hate speech. 

While Grunow, Klenner and Solberg all explained that they do not Yak nor know any professor who has, Klenner shared a story he heard.

“I’ve heard of one incident where someone [a faculty member] made a comment in response to racial slurs,” said Klenner. “It was before my time here.“

“When I was in college, ‘Yakking’ meant ‘throwing up,’ added Grunow. “It’s almost relieving—these are normal students that have normal frustrations.”