YikYak app goes viral among under-age users

February 26, 2015 — by Fiona Sequeira

YikYak, a free, anonymous social app that allow users within a 10-mile radius of each other to connect and share information through anonymous “yaks," has recently become popular with teenagers.

“Chinese takeout: $10.55. Gas to get there and back: $4.14. Getting home and realizing they forgot one of your containers: Riceless.”

One can find “yaks” like these on YikYak, a free, anonymous social media app launched in 2013 by Furman University students Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll that was created for adults who use iOS and Android. The app is loosely based on Twitter and creates communities that allow users within a 10-mile radius of each other to connect and share information through anonymous “yaks.”

Users can contribute by upvoting, downvoting or replying to yaks with comments that can also gain upvotes or downvotes. A user’s goal is to boost his or her “Yakarma,” the accumulation of points gained from upvotes on yaks, comments and replies.

“YikYak is just another way to connect with [people in] your environment,” senior Jimmy Cheng said. “But it’s more appealing than other apps because it’s anonymous, so you can be more open with your thoughts. It’s like admitting your sins without the priest knowing.”

There are other anonymous apps on the market. On PostSecret, users mail in their secrets anonymously on postcards, and on Whisper, they send and receive anonymous messages. Unlike these other anonymous sharing apps, YikYak serves users who live in close proximity to each other. The app has spread like wildfire to college campuses, where users treat the app as their go-to source for local news, gossip and comic relief.

Although the app is designed for adults, YikYak has garnered a huge response from under-age users. However, the drawback for high school students is that YikYak has in-built preventative measures against minors. The app contains geolocation tracking technology which blocks access to users at high-school campuses.

“I know it’s trying to appeal to college students, but just like Facebook, we’ll always find a way to bypass the system,” Cheng said. “If anything, the geotracking feature that makes [YikYak] restricted just makes it feel like the forbidden fruit.”

While a central aspect of the app is its anonymity, strict rules are in place to keep YikYak enjoyable and safe for users. The main rules include not bullying or specifically targeting other yakkers and a zero-tolerance policy for posting other people’s private information. If a user’s yaks are continually reported, he or she risks suspension.

Despite the preventative rules against under-age users, YikYak has found its niche among students.  

“YikYak allows [SHS students] to voice their opinion and get advice on topics that they may be scared to ask in person,” senior Rohit Rao said. “Even if we can’t use it on campus, it’s great.” 

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