Technology

Quit your yakking

The first thing I did, upon opening the app Yik Yak, was promptly delete it. I’d shared my location and admired the cute, colourful graphics when I saw a post from some guy looking for girls who were “down to f*** in the ass.” What the hell had I just downloaded?
 
I should point out that I am not down with the kids. In fact that expression alone pretty much illustrates my point. In terms of app usage, I am a hardcore Facebooker, who flirts with Twitter and Instagram, but who can’t Snapchat to save her life. 
 
Yik Yak is a social media site that started out in the US in 2013 and has slowly trickled over to Irish shores. It allows members or “yakkers” to read the anonymous thoughts of fellow app members in their local area. Posts are rated using up and down arrows and popular posts appear on a daily hotlist. Simple.
 
Posts range from Dorothy Parker-esque quips to straight-up requests for sex. As I write this the top “yak” in my area – which has received 69 up votes so far – is “Peeling an orange and getting a degree in Mandarin from DIT.” A harsh sentiment, but it still had me giggling into my sleeve for a good five minutes. 
 
Now any social media user knows that anonymity on the internet is synonymous with trolling. The developers describe the app as a “local bulletin board” where users can share “news, funny experiences, shout outs, and jokes”. The reality however is quite different.
 
When Yik Yak was first launched, complaints started rolling in that the app facilitated cyberbullying due to its anonymous nature. Eventually Google Play dropped the app from its charts and Yik Yak actually blocked high school users via geo-fencing technology.
 
When I first started using Yik Yak – a year after the contention began – I had to agree to some vague guidelines about appropriate content but it was pretty clear, from my initial experience, that the app is still beset with problems. 
 
Despite trying to limit usage to a more “mature” audience and maintaining a team of in-house moderators, Yik Yak has been banned from a number of US college campuses and is certainly not a place for the faint of heart. 
 
Similar to the ill-fated app Secret, it appears that the controversy has had a lasting detrimental effect. Yik Yak is nowhere to be seen on the US iTunes chart and is similarly absent from UK charts having been badly received on that side of the Atlantic as well. 
 
However, in the Irish iTunes chart it is currently ranked number 14 in the best free apps to download category. So why does Yik Yak appeal so much to the Irish? 
 
A review of the app written for The Daily Edge explains; “it fits right into our passive aggressive, confrontation-averse, yet banter-loving nature.” 
 
A quick search of “Yik Yak Ireland” doesn’t reveal numerous articles about its darker side, but funny listicles about why Ireland and Yik Yak make such a good pair.
 
Despite its dubious beginnings, Yik Yak is a great platform for that tongue-in-cheek humour that defines Irish wit – and that’s why it has them laughing until the cows come home.