Let’s take a trip down memory lane. In my personal experience at Kenyon, anonymity, and I mean true, prevalent, lasting anonymity, got its footing in the comment section of The Thrill. This was a place where you could post almost whatever you wanted, and it would be seen, heard, and engaged with. It started as harmless. It’s perfectly within anyone’s right to say they don’t think one of our posts is funny, or that we’re not good writers. But I’ve watched these comments turn into repeated sexual harassment, to unfounded accusations against other students, groups, professors, and departments.
And then Kenyon Confessions came along. Like The Thrill‘s anonymous commenting system, both of these things were created with the best of intentions. But inevitably, a space for discussion and advice ended up sharing a platform with a space to call each other “cunts.”
And now there’s Yik Yak. And what’s scary about Yik Yak is that unlike The Thrill and Kenyon Confessions, there is no filter, and there is no choice. By using the app, you are subject to any post created by anyone around you, even if it’s only up there for a matter of seconds before being flagged down, if it’s flagged down at all.
It’s no longer the ~internet~ but the Internet. It’s almost the entirety of our culture and I love it. But that means that just because something is written on a blog or app does not mean we should write it off as not being a part of real life. In a small community like Kenyon, Yakking “Let’s go gang rape Crozier!” is not just a shout in the dark. It’s heard and it’s real and it’s personal.
With what happened yesterday fresh on our minds, I’m not the only one who’s scared. Scared because, for the first time, an anonymous threat on one of these platforms was physically manifested. Scared because if that threat was real, then every other threat should be treated as valid. Scared because for reasons I can’t explain, women are being targeted with a vulgarity and vigor that I can’t believe is happening on a campus that I thought was respectful, thoughtful, and safe.
I don’t want to write this as just a woman. I don’t want to write this as though women are the only people who have suffered through anonymity on this campus. I’m writing this as a member who values this community. Racial slurs, homophobic slurs, ableist slurs all find their way into Kenyon. But when that has happened, the majority has always risen up and squelched the bigots who’ve expressed them. I don’t feel like women are in the majority on this one.
If somebody has a legitimate concern or issue with how this campus is being run, they have almost endless options for how to express that in a productive way that reaches the right ears and makes a change. When you turn to a platform like Yik Yak, I don’t think you actually care about change. You care about making your victims feel as small and as unsafe as possible. And it’s working.
It’s your choice to use Yik Yak, and it’s your choice to delete it. One Thrill post won’t convince you either way, especially because I’m sure that this will mostly fall on deaf ears. Yaks are only fun to write if people read them. The app will only succeed if there’s an audience. Take that away, and it’s just three bigots talking to each other. I hope you won’t be one of them.