Time to delete Yik Yak, the perfect app for bullies and cowards
It’s become too cruel
Bitching is a good thing. It’s a skill that allows us to cooperate in large numbers and achieve remarkable things.
It lets us know who we can trust, who we can’t and who’s shagging each other. It protects us from cheaters and unreliables. It’s the key to forging tighter and more sophisticated bonds of coordination.
The point about bitching – which every successful gossiper knows – is that the subject of the bitching doesn’t find out about it. They never know you and your co-bitchers deconstructed them right down to the atomic level.
I think we can all agree how important this is. Imagine a world where everyone knew what everyone else was saying about them. The streets would run with blood.
Yik Yak has taken bitching and done something very strange and new to it. On Yik Yak gossip becomes public. Simultaneously the anonymity of the gossipers is protected. The public and private are being smashed together, mixed up and confused with disturbing consequences.
Two weeks ago, a Bristol economics lecturer refused to teach her class after she discovered they’d been using Yik Yak to make sexual comments about her. Having seen the Yaks, I can confirm they were bad, but nothing you haven’t said about half a dozen people over the course of your life, nothing out out of the ordinary.
What was out of the ordinary was the way they were published in public, in real time as she gave her lectures. And that’s not the only example of it being used cuntishly.
I like Yik Yak. Frequently it’s so funny that I find myself preparing my laughter before I even open the app, but I’m not sure it’s good for us. It’s not humorously impaired to ask that the cruelest bitching be done in privately, the way it’s been done so successfully for so long.
We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. Yik Yak is shaping us into funny, uncomfortable, awkward, cruel people who get revenge on the world by making comments that ought to stay private, public.
Those toxic yaks in Bristol are a prefiguration of worse to come. Our shared parent, the one who built the world we live in, the one who shapes all our conversations, is an geek who talks like a computer, who doesn’t do empathy, who doesn’t believe in privacy – Mark Zuckerberg.
Yik Yak is turning into a place where we’re all Zuckerbergs, with dead fish handshakes and a refusal to look people in the eye, a public space to gather in and bully anyone we don’t like. We’re becoming cowards who wouldn’t say shit to the faces of the people we’re destroying.
At the risk of endorsing violence, next time you want to use Yik Yak to get personal with someone, why not offer them out instead? Your cousins, their cousins, no shanks and an abandoned industrial estate where you can get completely Clockwork Orange with each other.
That’s a much more civilized solution.