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Editorial | Students can't stop Yaking: New app changes the face of gossip

By Editorial Board
On April 21, 2014

It seems as if the days of public whispers, rude laughter and quiet conversations spreading gossip have now transmitted to the digital frontier. Comments and accusations about others are now faceless and nameless on new apps like YikYak that can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store. Described as "a local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you," it resembles more of a dartboard than any bulletin board at Miami, with users constantly throwing insults at people or groups, quickly gaining "likes" "dislikes" and replies.

A glorified gossip app, YikYak allows users to post anonymously or under a fake handle. Other uses can "up" or "down" a post and reply to it. Some of the posts are just humorous, but others slam sororities and fraternities and individual people, usually for being promiscuous or for not being high on the social ladder of Greek life.

This isn't the first app to take a stab at becoming a real life Mean Girl's "burn book." CollegeACB, a website devoted to gossip that can be sorted by university, was shut down years ago and has now turned into the website CollegiateACB. Changing the web domain by a couple letters hasn't actually changed the content however. Threads include sorority rankings and who has the biggest boobs on campus. It isn't as widely used as YikYak, but it still has the same idea: post anonymously about anything you want pertaining to your university and fear no repercussions of it.

The Miami Student Editorial Board cautions users from posting anonymously about other people on these gossip websites and apps. Even though most posts are humorous (or usually just crude), there are other posts that make fun of people, usually female students and sororities, for being "slutty" or not high on the social ladder.

After a string of suicides this school year, some relating to alcohol and prescription drug abuse, it is important to remember that not everyone can handle insults and rumors as well as others can. It may be easy for some students to shrug off gossip, but for others, it usually results in the loss of self-esteem and even creates serious social anxiety for them. They may even turn towards risky behaviors in order to sooth how they feel, including the abuse of alcohol and drugs.

And even though posting anonymous gossip on YikYak may not feel like cyber bullying, it really is. Posting anonymous comments about other people, with no way of anyone else being able to verify if the comments or gossip is true, is bullying. Saying something to another person's face is one thing: hiding behind your iPhone and spouting it off anonymously is another.

According to nobullying.com, a social responsibility project started by parents and teachers, about 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online with one in four being verbally attacked more than once, about one third of kids have been threatened online and about 58 percent of kids and teens have reported that something mean has been said about them or to them online.

Miami students aren't a bunch of kids or teens - we are very much adults. All of us also deeply understand what goes online often stays online. Just because YikYak is an app doesn't mean its threads and content don't ever reach the immediate web. Imagine someone calling you a slut online or saying you do drugs and are a drunk - it could possibly hurt your career and reputation. Why would you want to do that to someone else?

The point is, YikYak and other sites like CollegeACB are always going to be around, but it's the social responsibility of its users to maintain a quality standard of what should be on these sites and what shouldn't be. It can remain a funny way to read about what is going on in Oxford and other areas, but it doesn't have to be one giant gossip forum. The board encourages students to use these apps and websites responsibly with other people's emotions in mind.


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