Yik Yak and the Cyber Attack

It’s been around for months, but the application Yik Yak only reached Christ Church Episcopal School yesterday. The iPhone application allows users to anonymously post about classmates, teachers, or faculty at the school. The application, created by two Furman University students, was intended for college campuses, but has spread to high schools across the country.

Within one day, Christ Church upper school students were able to download and begin posting. Though actual Yik Yak posts will not be replicated here, but many were offensive and targeted students. As Christ Church students joined the app, they found other schools nearby and began to retaliate against posts that denounced the school, most relating to the school’s perceived financial status.

Before the app spread to Christ Church, there were already other schools dealing with cyber-bully related activity on it. Tech Crunch writer Jordan Crook, an online resource, wrote about the app in February. Crook noted that the creators of Yik Yak intended for it to be “used to gripe about things” like classes or teachers. An official YouTube video promoting the application also claims that it can be used to “spread the word about parties” or other campus events. From this, it appears that the app was not intended to be mean-spirited, but rather an outlet for light-hearted frustrations.

It is unlikely that the creators intended for the application to become a forum for negative comments, but they do advertise Yik Yak as a way of to “become the talk of the town and never get discovered.”

As usual, high school students were able to contort something seemingly harmless into something malicious that was detrimental in many facets to all people involved.

Unfortunately, the whole Upper School seemed to be swept into the stream of constantly updated posts and by the end of the day, it was all that anyone could talk about. Students’ greatest motivation for downloading the application was to make sure that nothing was said about them. Many posts were unrestrained and blatant, calling out specific students or school stereotypes. Because of the promise of complete anonymity, none had any qualms about the things they were posting, even if they were completely false. Junior Claire Aucoin remarked that, “It showed how cruel people are when you take away punishment. It is a form of cyber bullying and it can really damage someone”

The buzz about the app quickly made its way to the administration, and they were able block the app through geo-fencing, like many other schools in the area. Not only was the app harmful in an emotional sense, but it took away from the learning environment in the school. It was an unnecessary distraction that was able to do possibly permanent damage in only a short period of time. Some students noted that the app was only briefly popular, with Junior Miles Hauser commenting that the app revealed that “people don’t have very thick skin. People were reacting to things that everyone knew were untrue.” He summarized his feelings by asking, “Is it going to matter in two years?”

Many steps have been taken to address the issues that Yik Yak have caused. This morning the Upper School attended an assembly to address the app and the damage done to the student body. Teacher’s shared personal stories, and everyone felt a sense of all the damage that the app had actually caused. Sitton Furman commented on the assembly, saying, “Mr. Greer’s talk really showed everyone the destructive effect that one negative comment can have and how it can destroy one’s spirit.”

Though there is no way to take back the things that were said, hopefully the removal of the app will be able to prevent possible future damage.