The Year of the Yak

Already doomed

Formatting blogs can be annoying af… Enjoy this odd little test post: an opinion piece I wrote for a rather interesting Media Studies class at UVA. Or maybe don’t. It’s a smidge formal but I promise the class actually kept me awake about 50% of the time.

Prior to entering college and meeting a wide variety of people from different corners of the country, my circle of friends did not stretch far past the borders of Northern Virginia. Consequently, the interactions I had with friends via twitter and Facebook were held within the margins of our shared location. After spending a year at such a worldly university like UVA, twitter in particular lost its local feel. With new social groups extending past the borders of Great Falls Virginia, communicating to a select few was much harder through a platform like twitter that required mass messaging and now lacked a concentrated focus. Recently, a mobile phone application called Yik Yak has swiftly infiltrated the homes, libraries and classrooms of UVA. The application offers back a method of communication to only participants in close proximity of one another… with one catch: full anonymity.

Yik Yak, like many other social media platforms, allows the mobile phone to transcend from a simple communication device to an outlet for local updates about newsworthy information. Whether it be trivial comments about weather or current drama going on in the area surrounding you, Yik Yak spreads messages without focusing on a writer’s reputation or scholarly status. The application helps create a new “networked public”, a term coined by Danah Boyd, meaning a technologically created space where an imagined community arises through digital interaction. Because of Yik Yak’s incorporation of actual proximity into their product, the virtual idea of a networked public seems to hold a more traditional community component. In my opinion, when users “yak” in a given community and provide stories of gossip to the general public, they are in their own way adding to the working definition of the citizen journalist. By definition, citizen journalists are individuals who are not professional journalists that use their communication technologies at their disposal to report on things witnessed through video, audio, or text and then transmit the information to others. Regardless of how pointless the content may seem to some, the anonymous site is still offering a community information that its participants have an interest in hearing. As seen in this CBS New York clip, there is growing skepticism around the integrity of the Yik Yak application. Reporters and wary parents comment on the growing danger this anonymous site creates for its young users. While a separation from online consequence may very well lead to unnecessary cyber bullying, the video clip fails to mention a single optimistic aspect of the app. Not once is a positive interview shown to give the video an unbiased vantage point. With the anonymous component to Yik Yak, users can share the news heard around them freely and without worry of external judgment outside of the network. It is essential for adults to grasp this separation between networked publics and face-to-face interactions that many teenagers and young adults acknowledge today. In doing so, a better understanding can be seen as to why such sites are so popular among today’s adolescent population.

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Who’s on the other side of that post? Could be this horse. Don’t worry, I’m on to him…

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