Even anonymous groups have rules. While it might seem like Yik Yak would be a free-for-all, an unspoken code of conduct has emerged amongst users. Here we explain these unwritten rules, helping users to maintain a community atmosphere and enjoy the humour and discussions around them.
Living on a university campus, it seems like no sooner has one social media app been adopted by everyone than another one comes along and quickly becomes the new “it” app. On my campus, the last two months have seen most of the student body download the social media app Yik Yak to their phones. Yik Yak gives users the chance to post anonymous messages on a feed only visible to those within a limited radius.
There are a lot of reasons why Yik Yak is so popular. The app allows all of its users to post short messages (or “yaks”), but only displays those from within a 10-mile radius of the user. Meanwhile, all other users in the area have the chance to upvote the yaks they love, downvote those they don’t, and to comment on yaks with their own thoughts. The feed moves quickly in most locations, and Yaks are lucky to stay visible for more than twelve hours. Recently, Yik Yak has added a feature that allows users to “peek” at feeds from other locations, but users are unable to vote or comment on those feeds.
The qualities that make this app so great (anonymity, short viewing span, pictures of actual yaks, local feeds) have also paved the way for a lot of legitimate concern about safety on Yik Yak, the privacy settings on Yik Yak, the potential for cyberbullying, and plenty of general confusion about the purpose of an app that’s focused on posting short, anonymous messages that can only be seen within a 10-mile radius.
What I have found interesting over my last couple months of using Yik Yak is how quickly the local “herd” will create their own community rules for Yaks, and how fiercely these rules will be adhered to and enforced. The voting system on Yik Yak is based on a simple “upvote/downvote” structure, but if any Yak receives -5 votes, it is automatically “voted out of the herd” and removed from view. I’ve been amazed by how quickly Yaks that don’t fit the community’s standards will be removed from view—not by any external moderation, but by the userbase.
While each local Yak community will vary slightly in their unspoken rules for Yakking conduct, these are the etiquette laws that I have seen upheld time and time again—both on my local Yak feed and while travelling. Since the only benefit comes from amassing imaginary “Yak karma” that only you can see, using Yik Yak “successfully” may not be as important as finding efficient ways to use Facebook or Twitter.
With that being said, it is possible to use Yik Yak to advertise events, follow trends in your community, and get anonymous opinions on local happenings, but in order to do so you want to make sure that your Yaks aren’t voted out of the herd!
Don’t Recycle Posts
There are a lot of funny one-liners on the Internet, and it can be tempting to get some guaranteed Yak Karma by reposting one of your favourites. Let’s be real though—chances are that most of the people on Yik Yak have already seen the joke on Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit or Facebook, and they generally don’t appreciate seeing it again. Because Yik Yak has no way of connecting you back to your posts, take a chance on being original—best case scenario your own joke or pithy comment becomes a classic line that gets reposted on other Yak feeds or websites, and worst case scenario no one ever knows that you tried to make a pun based on an obscure Shakespeare reference.
Don’t Point Out Others’ Recycled Posts
There is probably only one thing that Yakkers hate more than recycled posts—and that’s the people that comment on recycled posts just to let everyone else know that the post was recycled. There’s no reason to police recycled Yaks any further than throwing them a downvote! After all, when you post that recycled emoji under Yaks you know you’ve seen before, you’re really just telling everyone else that you spend way too much time online.
Ask Questions, Give Answers
The majority of Yaks are one-liners, and these can quickly rise to the top of the day’s “Hot” feed. With that being said, Yik Yak offers an incredible opportunity for you to have candid discussions with those around you. While posts asking questions about recommendations for local businesses, personal experiences, or advice may not bring in the upvotes, they will get people talking!
Without Yik Yak I would have no idea where the best place in town to get a haircut is, I would have missed out on hearing about strangers’ experiences in class, or known what activities were happening on a given night. The reverse is also true—there have been several times where I have been able to answer another user’s question about the best professor to take for a class, whether or not there are delays on the highway, or whether it’s worth making the trek to meal hall for their Sunday night special.
Keep it Local
Yik Yak is unique because of how localized the information and discussion is. For that reason, keep your Yaks related to local events, sights, or experiences—there are other social media platforms for discussions about the world at large. Honestly, some of the most popular Yaks on my local feed have been nothing more than ongoing complaints about unplowed sidewalks this winter. These Yaks would seem pointless and repetitive anywhere else, but with all the storms our local area has been through this year these complaints and wisecracks are showered with upvotes!
Don’t be a Jerk
One of the biggest criticisms of Yik Yak is the potential for it to lead to anonymous cyberbullying and/or hate speech. I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly and efficiently anyone trying to do either of these things has been shut down on my local feed—generally you’ll only see negative messages for the first minute after they are posted, after which they are completely downvoted into oblivion. There is a report feature on Yik Yak as well, which can be used to flag inappropriate or cruel Yaks—but I find that this feature rarely has to be used, as the Yak community enforces this etiquette rule very seriously.
Not only have I seen very little in the way of mean Yaks on my feed, I have been overwhelmed by the number of positive shoutouts to local individuals or groups. Whether this is a quick note letting your class crush know that they’re looking great, or a thank you message to a charitable group who organized a successful fundraiser, these Yaks are by far some of the most fun to read, give, and receive. Having the opportunity to compliment someone anonymously is amazing, and it is used very frequently on my local feed.
Keep Yakking Anonymous
One thing to keep in mind is that using names is frowned upon on Yik Yak—obviously for Yaks that are critical, but also for those that are complimentary. It’s much better to use a vague identifying description (e.g. “the guy in astro with a red hat”) than to use a person’s name—if you do use a name, you’ll find that your Yak is downvoted almost immediately in a group effort to protect the person’s privacy. This also holds true for those trying to guess who wrote a specific Yak—while it can be fun to speculate, don’t post any names publicly; Yik Yak is so great because it is anonymous, and there’s no rhyme or reason to taking that aspect away from someone.
Yik Yak is no fun if everyone only upvotes the absolute cream of the crop. Sure, use some discretion when you vote, but it doesn’t cost you anything to press that up arrow and doing so will increase the likelihood that whoever’s post you liked will post again. Yik Yak is best when it’s active, and when people are constantly posting, commenting, and upvoting. Because only those local to you can vote on your feed, it is one of the few times that you (as an individual) can have a significant impact on the content that is featured in your feed—enjoy having this power, and upvote whenever a yak makes you laugh, informs you about a local event, or echoes your own feelings.
What Yik Yak Etiquette Have You Noticed?
Yik Yak is definitely a unique app with a lot of potential for building an online community that has direct ties to your local area. While you would think that this kind of app would be a free-for-all of shameless advertising, cruel comments, and bad jokes, it is actually a fantastic resource for local information, community in-jokes, and hilarious observations. I’ve loved watching jokes that started on Yik Yak become part of everyday speech on campus, the smiles on the faces of people who have received kind anonymous shout-outs and the legitimate discussions that have been had about local issues.
Thanks to the unspoken Yik Yak etiquette code, Yik Yak has quickly become a favourite social media app and its potential for growth and new uses in 2015 and later is very exciting. If you haven’t begun using Yik Yak, now might be a great time to start—don’t overthink what you are posting, and enjoy the new online community!
If you have been using Yik Yak for a while, what local etiquette have you noticed on your feed? I’m also dying to know, which Yak has made you laugh hardest?