Social Media

The Unspoken Yik-Yak Etiquette Code

Briallyn Smith 18-03-2015

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 10 Things You Need to Know About Yik Yak Yik Yak is an app that lets anyone post anonymous messages visible only to others nearby. But what does Yik Yak actually do? Read More . 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 How Safe Are Apps Like Kik, Yik Yak And Snapchat For Teens? What's safe for my child? Will they be safe on the Internet? Is this a safe app? The reality is that nothing is safe - it's how you use it that makes it safe. Read More , the privacy settings on Yik Yak 10 Social Mobile Apps That Breach Your Teenager's Privacy Your children have become proto-adults, beginning to grow up. Like their friends, they spend a lot of time using smartphones, tablets and computers in a way you could only dream of. Read More , 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 viewnot 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 againboth 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 The Minimalist Guide To Personal Branding On Social Media Personal branding. What is this alien concept you speak of? Despite becoming prevalent among Internet users, I still have found through casual conversation that it's a rather uncommon concept throughout the general public. Read More .

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 thoughchances 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 originalbest 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 postsand 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 truethere 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 experiencesthere 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 feedgenerally 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 Yaksbut I find that this feature rarely has to be used, as the Yak community enforces this etiquette rule very seriously.


Give Shoutouts

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 Yakobviously 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 nameif 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 Yakwhile 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.

Upvote Generously

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 feedenjoy 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 6 Positive Effects Social Media Sites Have on Society There are good things about social networking. Here's our exploration of the positive effects of social media and why it's good. Read More  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 Social Media In 2015, Predictions And Potential Today we chose to place our necks on the line and make four future predictions for social media in 2015, along with a few more ideas about what might happen before this time next year. Read More 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 startdon’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?

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  1. Bob
    April 13, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    I think the 'Omg cute boy in the library' posts are so annoying though. How are they interesting to you? They're always the same to me and no one knows what these people are talking about.

    • Briallyn Smith
      April 23, 2016 at 2:43 am

      Hahahaha - that's true enough, Bob! I really do enjoy the shoutouts that are a bit more unique or that may have been seen by more than one person, but the truly mundane ones can be a bit much sometimes. Thankfully, I don't think they generally stick around long!

  2. Alice
    April 1, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    People decided to say there was a large scale fire on campus on yik yak... That's not okay

    • Briallyn Smith
      April 1, 2016 at 6:43 pm

      Oh no! That's definitely not cool, Alice! Some people are just jerks no matter what, and I hate it when they cause trouble for everyone else!

  3. Anonymous
    June 28, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Just a small thing but Yik Yak automatically downvotes, at a rate of once per minute, any post or comment that contains a first name or the name of several similar apps, regardless of the context. It is not a group effort on the part of other yakkers to protect privacy. I totally agree, anonymous social media does seem slightly hypocritical for filtering content, since the whole point is to not experience any judgment, but there you have it.

  4. Briallyn
    March 25, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    That's really frustrating, Olivia. I've definitely noticed that in my area the helpful questions don't always get a ton of upvotes, but I also don't see them getting downvoted the way they are in your area!
    Unfortunately, I feel like if there is an overwhelmingly 'bad' presence on YikYak in an area it can be hard to turn it around, but it's definitely worth being generous with the upvotes to the helpful posts when you can.

  5. Olivia
    March 25, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    I've found that random helpful things get downvoted near me (ex. posting the price of printing at the University library) and bad things get upvoted (nasty sexual/racist jokes). Maybe it's because I live near a college town...

  6. Philip Bates
    March 18, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Great first post, Briallyn - and welcome to MUO!

    I've not really got into Yik Yak, but have considered it, because I like its potential (and as it's a kooky idea). But the problem is the relatively low number of people in my area who would adopt it. I guess that's the bigger issue though: if everyone had the same thought as me, no one would adopt it at all, and it wouldn't get off the ground!

    • Briallyn
      March 19, 2015 at 1:42 am

      Thanks so much for your comment & encouragement Philip!

      I didn't expect to enjoy YikYak as much as I have - but I agree, I think that it's largely because I'm in an area that is so ideally suited for it (a small town with a large population of university students). The feed is always moving quickly and there are a lot of shared experiences to discuss!

      While it's kind of a different way to use the app, it might be worth downloading and using next time you're travelling. I know I've had a lot of fun looking at what people have to say in new cities or even during layovers in airports!

  7. Matthew Hughes
    March 18, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    This was an incredible, incredible post. Brilliant stuff!

    It's easy to explain how an app, or a service works. It's not as easy to explain the culture behind them. You did an awesome job.

    Write more stuff like this, please?

    • Briallyn
      March 19, 2015 at 1:38 am

      Thank you so much Matthew! I wish there was a demand for cultural anthropologists within social media - that would be my ideal field ( yes, it's my hope that I'll be able to keep writing articles along these lines!)