New photo feature could allow positive evolution for Yik Yak

first_imgPopular anonymous messaging app Yik Yak has been called many things — chief among them “inflammatory,” “disgusting” and “downright racist.” Certainly, the anonymity of the app has created an odd mixture of humorous-meets-hurtful that can isolate communities, marginalize minorities and enable cyberbullying across campuses. But Yik Yak’s latest update, complete with the addition of photos and a phone number verification system, strips back a layer of the incognito nature of the app in a laudable effort to make it less abhorrent and more newsworthy — and if it works, it could pave the way for the evolution of our interactions with news.Some have expressed skepticism that Yik Yak will actually be used for serious news. This is, after all, the same social media app that regularly posts gems like “If you think about it poop is just the sparknotes of everything you ate” and “Just realized that beef jerky is cow raisin.”But consider that few believed that Snapchat could provide an avenue for constant selfie-snapping while simultaneously presenting stories from CNN, the Daily Mail and National Geographic. And few believed that BuzzFeed could offer both clickbait content about the fingernails of Disney princesses and intensely thought-provoking news and opinion articles.Perhaps Yik Yak, too, will use photos to legitimize a dual use to meld humorous everyday happenings with newsworthy campus issues, such as safety alerts and construction on campus. Given the mission to package social media and news that social networks such as Facebook attempt to create, Yik Yak developers might be thinking along similar lines to create a one-stop shop to combine campus news and life.A shift to news for Yik Yak would also increase students’ awareness of campus happenings in real time. And due to Yik Yak’s popularity, posts will reach a large audience immediately. When a user posts about a car accident on a local street, a secret concert about to occur or free food at an event (possibly the most important type of news story for the hungry undergraduate), students can actually respond immediately. It’s Twitter, but for college.The beauty of community-created content is that there’s no guesswork about catering to the college audience; the community gives immediate, and sometimes brutal, feedback. No one cares about that lecture you posted about? You’ll be downvoted to oblivion. Post the menu at Parkside, however, and you may be awarded with a high Yakarma score.Skeptics point out that Yik Yak’s anonymity — the heart of its ability to cause real harm to students — poses a significant problem in attempting to report news. If Yik Yak became a substantial provider of community-created news, any post could be taken at face value as true. Such a lack of verification does, indeed, hinder the legitimacy of Yik Yak; however, the design of Yik Yak’s rating system allows peers to downvote inaccurate posts and sort out low-rated posts. This requires a community to act collectively to affirm or deny statements, but considering that the campus community is the lifeblood of Yik Yak, such action is not impossible. Millennials may not care as much about the accuracy of information as they do the community aspect of responding to crises in real time; perhaps the trade-off between credibility and immediacy is worth it.Despite the potentially game-changing effect of Yik Yak’s update, it’s important to consider Yik Yak in context; we should take care that Yik Yak’s new update, at the very least, does not worsen the offense that many associate with the app. Yik Yak’s move to incorporate pictures into posts could have ruined the app (nude photos, anyone?), but by banning pictures with faces of people, Yik Yak provides some sort of protection against cyberbullying. Though such a measure is not foolproof, app developers have realized the effects of their app design on students’ lives.Maybe Yik Yak will remain an outlet where entitlement and ignorance reign and insensitive comments overshadow positive ones. But maybe, if we are willing, it can change.Sonali Seth is a sophomore majoring in political science and policy, planning, development. She is also the editorial director of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” will run Tuesdays.last_img

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