Reply All: #9 The Writing On The Wall
January 15, 2015 9:08 AM - Subscribe

Yik Yak is a an app that allows users to communicate anonymously with anyone within a 10-mile radius. At Colgate University in upstate New York, the anonymity brought out a particularly vicious strain of racism that shook the school.
posted by mathowie (9 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This was an amazing story. So far, ReplyAll has mostly been about light subjects and interesting cul-de-sacs on the internet, but this was really a compelling, visceral, depressing, uplifting, and at times disturbing episode.

A few months ago I tried out YikYak after a friend described how it was the number one app at his child's school. Since I live near a college, it was mostly people complaining about being bored, wanting to go out instead of study, and making jokes about getting high. It wasn't useful to me so I deleted it after but I worried of course about the anonymity aspects of it. I imagined what the posts might be like near the high school in my town, and kids that are less mature would be inclined to spread every vicious hallway rumor and god, I am so glad I don't work in administration of a high school today. We take anonymity seriously at MeFi and only do it in limited and controlled ways in order to avoid the ugly aspects of it. But the app is totally open to anyone saying anything with no consequence and it seems like a recipe for disaster.

It's good to hear there's been some positive outcome from the YikYak disaster at Colgate, but I still think of the app as really a dangerous combination of technology that isn't necessarily making the world a better place.

Again, it was great to hear ReplyAll attack a meaty, difficult subject head-on.
posted by mathowie at 9:18 AM on January 15, 2015

Yeah, YikYak is big here, and I check in after the class I teach to make sure nothing about me comes up, and intermittently otherwise to check the general tone around campus. As well as the multitudes of people asking why nobody will date them, talking about the sex they apparently just had, trash talking whoever the football team is playing the following weekend, and offering to have sex with other people, there are frequent strains of pretty intense anti-Asian sentiment which is very disappointing. The university must be aware of it, but nobody administrative has said anything substantive about it.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:20 AM on January 15, 2015

This was a solid episode, and kind of a "dark corner" of the internet. I wonder if the ReplyAll gang will take on other things, like gamergate (or gamergate tactics like doxxing or SWATing).

Cherry Creek HS responded to YikYak issues with an anti-stereotype campaign to stem off some of the same issues.
posted by jazon at 10:36 AM on January 15, 2015

Such a great episode. I'm glad to see that ReplyAll successfully tackles serious topics as well as they do stuff like Jennicam. They did a great job of conveying the fear that the students felt.

Listening to this made me wonder what the YikYak sentiment would be at my university, and how deep the racism is. I went to a small (but not tiny) private school in the South. I'd like to think that everyone I hung around with was pretty open-minded, but the school was far from diverse. The majority of the black students were athletes and they all stuck together. The one positive thing we had in the diversity area was that like 30% of the students are Jewish. There were rumors of racist stuff perpetrated by wealthy fraternities (like a cross-burning!) who supposedly got away with it because their alumni were huge donors, but I was never sure how much was actually true. One frat did have an annual "Old South" party that is exactly what you expect.

I was wondering what you all thought of "diversity training." Is it possible to educate someone out of this kind of bigotry?
posted by radioamy at 12:54 PM on January 15, 2015

Doxxing has always been on our radar, but we haven't quite found the perfect story yet. There was the Zoe Quinn August Never Ends blog post, which was something we've talked about.

I'm not particularly frightened of going after darker stuff. It's usually just a heavier lift when it comes to reporting, and we're a lean operation. I asked Yik Yak for an interview a number of times, but they never responded. This was the closest I got to them, but they didn't reply.

One of the cutting room floor elements of this story is that there isn't much of a history of activism at Colgate, and the Association of Critical Collegians modeled themselves on some Colgate students in the civil rights era, the Association of Black Collegians, whose activism led directly to the founding of Colgate's ALANA center.
posted by Alex Goldman at 1:16 PM on January 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Just an update - I heard back from Yik Yak and they seemed agreeable to an interview. So that may end up on next week's episode.
posted by Alex Goldman at 8:23 AM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

This was great to listen to on MLK day.
posted by garlic at 9:39 AM on January 20, 2015

Nice title!

The writing on the wall

And my personal favorite quote.
posted by bq at 10:44 AM on January 21, 2015

I'm curious how the tenor of YikYak compares to, say, Secret, which I think has more of a friends-of-friends model than a within-this-physical-range model.
posted by psoas at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2015

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