So, for my latest sociological peek into something not intended for me but about which I was curious—see also AshleyMadison.com—I’m fresh off having a week-long look at Yik Yak. It’s an anonymous social network on which you “yak” and reply to everyone who’s paying attention within a 10-mile radius about whatever’s on your mind (in 200 characters or less). Users upvote and downvote yaks and replies, and anything that gets to -5 gets deleted.
Yik Yak is intended for and primarily used by college students, so right as classes get out for the summer might not have been the best time for this experiment. However, there seem to be enough folks around—summer class attendees, kids home from elsewhere—to give me a flavor of it. Right now, ’round these parts, there are two or three dozen new posts daily.
My capsule impression of my admittedly limited view is that nearly nothing of any consequence whatsoever happens on Yik Yak. A good, solid two-thirds of what I saw fell into one of these categories:
- I’m bored
- I’m hungry
- Finals suck
- Life is so unfair
On that last bullet, I saw more than one regretful lament about not talking to him/her, of the sort I wrote about earlier this year. There was attendant encouragement to take those opportunities when they present, so that’s a good thing. For a lot of the rest of it: sheesh, at the melodrama. It seems a lot of people this age look at their lives in absolutes. My life is a total tragedy. I’ve ruined the best thing that ever happened to me. Things will never get any better.
I don’t really remember my generation carrying on like that to a significant degree, but I’m sure we did. Consequently, it’s probably reasonable for me to expect to see it in our boys, too. It’s easy to look at these young people now, from 20 to 25 years ahead of where they are, and see how objectively ridiculous a lot of their concerns are. It’s easy to see that they’re just the loveliest, brightest, most engaging people who just haven’t cultivated any patience or perspective whatsoever yet.
That’s also, in some ways, most unhelpful. After all, “your concerns are objectively ridiculous” isn’t a particularly comforting thing to hear unvarnished, even if it’s true. It’ll behoove me to remember that when I’m in position to offer solace at my house.
What else did I see? An occasional “I’m horny.” A bitch about road construction. Etc. The only other thing that sticks with me is how skittish everyone was about any sort of gender/race identification. I never saw anything offensive, but people just didn’t want to hear about any of it at all. A reply identifying a server as a “Hispanic girl” was quickly downvoted to the memory hole. Ditto saying a place had a “lesbian vibe”—and that was a reply to a post asking about gay bars! Wow. I hope we’re just about to a tipping point on all of this hyper-offense. I was reminded of Jay Leno being called “kind of racist” for saying “I don’t really like Mexican” to a kid who was running out for lunch.
I could see Yik Yak being really cool in a large crowd where something interesting was happening and a lot of people were actively using it. I didn’t see much except people breathing at each other. Maybe I’ll take another look when fall classes gather.