I never downloaded the Yik Yak app. I started hearing about it last semester from various conversations like “Did you see what somebody said about So-And-So on Yik Yak?” People would sometimes even ask me personally if I had seen the degrading comments said about organizations or initiatives I was a part of on campus. If they ever followed up by trying to show or tell me the insult, I always just replied that I would rather not hear it.
Learning about an application that has led people to feel a sense of power from anonymously insulting each other left me with a basic, naïve question: Why are people mean?
It might sound laughable, but I actually cannot comprehend what sort of joy comes from publicly defaming another person or group of people. Moreover, what joy comes from criticizing the people within our own community?
It’s a dangerous application for numerous reasons. Going past the alarming fact that it raises the stakes of cyberbullying more than ever, it reinforces a belief in our generation that talking behind people’s backs and passive aggression are the best ways to get attention. However, with every insulting yik that you yak, I believe you’re actually devaluing your opinions. If you have an issue, meet with someone and work it out. If you disagree with a public matter, have an educational conversation about it and learn some diverse perspectives. Your voice is more meaningful when it is working with others and not hiding behind a smartphone screen.
While I do know Yik Yak is also an outlet for humor and even a few notes of UT spirit, my heart aches for any person or organization that has ever been made a victim of hatred in a community that’s supposed to be our home. A joke at another’s expense is not funny; it is threatening to someone’s ability to learn and to simply be.
Maybe the decision to participate in mockery is one of fear: it’s easier or “cooler” to join the trend because we worry if we’re not laughing, we’ll be laughed at.
We are scholars, we are Volunteers, and we are better than that. We are kinder than that. In the few years we get to spend together, growing in camaraderie at this university, we have to realize we are on the same team; we have to stand up for each other.
We also have to hold each other accountable. Let’s utilize social media to build one another up—to challenge each other to exude the Volunteer spirit and to help promote our university and our experiences in positive ways.
So maybe you think I’m naïve to ask why people are mean. I’m not naïve enough to think we live in a perfect world; tragedies happen every day. But us bringing each other down should not be one of them.