Yik Yak: a life behind a screen

I do not have a Yik Yak account and I am very proud of this. As much as my friends constantly try to convince me about how much laughter and gossip I’m missing out on in the absence of an anonymous parallel life, I know that no matter how much I may be missing out on, there’s a hell of a lot more that I’m gaining.

When the app was first released, I didn’t exactly leap at the chance to hop on the Yakking bandwagon like many of my friends did. I’m very nosey (which I guess should have made me the ideal candidate to sign up to an account), but I’m fully aware that I spend far too much of my time scrolling through my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds as it is, so why would I need another social media craze, and another bunch of fake, online ‘friends’ to add to my life?

Besides that, I really can’t see the appeal about the whole anonymity thing. Sure, I get that it’s funny and mysterious at first seeing post after post featuring humorous puns and hideously embarrassing stories, and having absolutely no idea who, or where, they’ve come from, but, quite unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before some Yakkers were taking things a step too far.

Like humiliating people they know (and some they don’t know at all) whether directly or indirectly, to get a rise out of them. Like shaming ex’s for being ‘crap in bed’, and others for being ‘ugly’, ‘fat’, ‘crazy’ or ‘weird’. Like instigating and encouraging severe forms of cyber bullying that are truly beyond unacceptable.

But, I guess you can’t fully understand that until you’ve been a victim of it yourself. I have. And I know how it feels.

I was informed by a friend (and Yik Yak user) a couple of weeks ago that messages were appearing on the app that were clearly written about me. At first, I shook it off. I’m not the type of person to take nasty comments to heart, nor am I the kind to allow people to drag me down. But, as someone who was bullied quite severely throughout primary school, I know the drill. I’ve heard the rhyme about sticks and stones one too many times, and I know that although words might not physically ‘hurt’, they sure as hell can’t be forgotten that easily.

Descriptions such as ‘bitch’, ‘two-faced’, ‘selfish’ and ‘unbearable’ were cropping up with me at the centre of it; all anonymous, and all written with the same amount of spineless hatred that comes from someone who can sit behind a computer screen and heartlessly defame someone in this way.

For hours, it went on – some commenting to add fuel to the fire, and others to stick up for me. Either way, these were all real people. Real people entering into a virtual world full of hatred, bullying, spite and rudeness – and some say they do it for fun!

But what are we really hoping to achieve from all of this? Do we think that hiding behind a social media fantasy world is going to make what we have seem more real? Do we think that masking our identities is going to make us more confident and honest in the long run? Do we think that hurting others is going to make us, in some way, stronger?

I may be one of the few people my age who is still avoiding any interaction or association with Yik Yak, but do you know what? If being without a virtual version of myself means missing out on the occasional bit of frivolous gossip and meaningless moments, then that’s the sacrifice I’m willing to make in order to maintain my comfortable, happy and, most importantly, real life.

Featured image: rosefirerising/ Flickr.

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