Yik Yaking

Jason Lief Uncategorized

So have you heard of this app? Yik Yak? It’s like an anonymous Twitter–post anything you want without anyone else knowing who you are. I came to know of this glorious innovation from a colleauge who showed me post after post of students upset about this or that. Lectures, professors, assignments, sporting events–anything and everything came under relentless attack. I found out that our small Christian college is under attack by liberals and feminists. That’s funny really… there are conversatives at Dordt who are more liberal than the liberals, but I’m getting off track. Honestly, I’m not exaclty sure what to make of it. I mean, I remember complaining about professors and assignments and forced lectures…in my dorm room with my fellow belly achers. But we didn’t have the tehcnology to broadcast it. The real question: Would we have done so if we could have? I’m also reluctant to complain about practices that give young people a voice–often a subversive voice–in a world that is overly structured and crammed down their throat. Could Yik Yak serve an important cultural function by giving voice to ideas that might never be heard? Maybe.

On the other hand, I find the anonymous nature of the conversation troubling. More than that… it’s dehumanizing. I love discussion and disagreement; I’m ok with people getting heated and angry. I try to tell students that disagreement–even heated disagreement–should be part of a college classroom. But lobbing anonymous barages doesn’t seem fair. Such engagements never take into account the bodily response of those being criticized. A friend used the example of calling another kid names on the playground… once you see the facial response of kid being made fun of, most of us choose to never do such a thing again.

The word “community” is so overused these days it’s meaningless. It no longer captures the spirit of a Christian form of love and communion that is messy, awkward, and often difficult. It’s a love that calls us to look each other in the face, to take seriously our embodied personhood and human identity as we speak truth. This is Yik Yak’s greatest failure–it dehumanizes both the one who writes, and the one toward whom the verbal bomb is thrown. Yet, I’m not sure young people are to blame–they’re just living into the behavior they see from the adult world every day. Can we find small ways to model a way of being in the world? One grounded in a Christian understanding of love and humanity?

Not everything on Yik Yak is worthless. One young man posted this: “Someone was bragging to me today that he’s had sex with ten times the number women than I have. Ha. Joke’s on him. Ten times zero is zero.”