Today I had the dubious pleasure of learning about—yet another—soul-crushing app called Yik Yak. Self-touted as an anonymous "local bulletin board" for anyone in the area to post jokes, observations, news, secrets and confessions to other (anonymous) people in their area, this app has of course devolved into a one-way ticket to teenage suicide.
I exaggerate, but only a little—29% of cyber-bullying victims reported suicidal thinking or attempted suicide. Students at a Westport, Connecticut high school recently came forward about Yik Yak's gossip-mongering potential. Not surprisingly, all the kids have been using it to anonymously post about one another and wow, is it ugly.
“K. is a slut.”
“J. N. is a fag.”
“The fact that O. P. has diabetes makes me happy.”
“S. D. + 10 years = trailer park.”
“Nobody is taking H. to prom because nobody has a forklift.”
“J. T.’s gonna get lynched at SMU.”
“How long do we think before A. B. kills herself?”
“N. likes the taste of thick pussy and wheelchair pussy.”
While the names here have been rendered anonymous, you better believe that on Yik Yak, the subjects being publicly eviscerated are not. This is the stuff of nightmares. Personally, my rough years were in middle school—seventh grade to be exact—when I was labeled a a "freak" and a "lesbian," which in 1997 was basically social death. Somehow I knew in my heart that these cruel, ignorant, small-minded fuck-heads simply smelled that I was different and I would laugh about it all one day, but don't get me wrong. Those 180-odd days at age 13 still haunt me with gut-sinking sadness; I dreaded getting up every morning.
The silver lining to my own torment—and those of my beating-a-different-drum comrades—is that at least people had to own up to their shit-talking. Everyone told me to my face what a freakish, pussy-loving lezzy I was, so things only went so far. The minute you remove accountability altogether—as with Yik Yak—people will say the most twisted shit that comes to their minds; it becomes a dumping ground for darkness. (Not to mention Yik Yak is also instantaneous, immediately shareable and could very well live forever in the hot bowels of the Internet.)
When do the creators of said app have to step in with their own accountability? Or is like the atom bomb. Did Oppenheimer say, "All I did was create the technology, it's not my fault that everyone wants to use it to blow each other to kingdom come!"?
Even if the founders—23-year-old entrepreneurs Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll—never intended Yik Yak to serve as a conduit for vitriolic gossip, once you see how the world is using your tool, wouldn't you maybe step in and say something? Or alter it in some way so—at least—profanity was forbidden? Or is this just another sad tale about human nature—given the chance, we'll all step on each other's necks for our own amusement?
Either way it makes me want to crawl into a cave and wait for the Dark Days to pass.