OPINION: Yik Yak is the unspoken hero of the 5Cs

Drawing of a hand holding a phone with the Yik Yak app open
(Selena Lopez • The Student Life)

The original Yik Yaks quoted in this article have been edited for grammatical accuracy and clarity. 

CW: Mentions of suicide

Yik Yak, the 2013 social media app which allows users to post and comment anonymously to those within a five-mile radius, has become prevalent at the 5Cs this year. 

The topics of posts include whatever is on people’s minds, a lot of which they wouldn’t talk about publicly, like academic insecurities, issues with the 5Cs, mental health, drugs and above all, sex. Based on the persona many 5C students assume, we might think that our peers are more put together than the average college student — but one look at the “hot” (trending) Yik Yak page may change your mind. 

“Someone smoke weed and make out with me,” wrote one user on Sept. 23. “Might just finger myself to sleep tonight instead of f***ing these Trump-loving CMC boys,” wrote another on Sept. 24. “F*** a situationship let’s be friends who smash sometimes,” someone posted on Sept. 29. 

On Oct. 12, during the week before Family Weekend (a time when many final assessments are due), there were several posts about academics and mental health: “Someone rid me of the desire for academic validation;” “imposter syndrome [is] hitting real hard these days;” “I feel like over the past week Yik Yak has gotten considerably less horny and considerably more desperate and depressed.”

Based on these posts alone — and there are plenty more where those came from — 5C students feel incredibly comfortable sharing whatever is on their mind through Yik Yak. At colleges where it is easy to fall victim to imposter syndrome and feel inferior to our peers, Yik Yak is a good reminder that we’re all going through similar things and none of us really know what we’re doing (like almost all college students).

“Guess who is officially pregnant. Yik Yak is the first to know,” said one person from Scripps College on Oct. 24. On the same day, someone from Pomona College wrote “Guess who is officially not pregnant.”

“[I] saw them kissing someone else, call me claremont crushed,” said a person from Pomona on Oct. 24. “Maybe if I dress up as a condom for Halloween he won’t use me,” said a post from someone at Scripps, which received 119 upvotes. “Should I just tell her I like her?” asked someone from Claremont McKenna College on the same day; the post got 70 upvotes.

As funny as Yik Yak is, and how nice it can be to read the unfiltered thoughts of our peers, some argue that the platform could be harmful due to the potential for bullying and hate speech. Consequently, some have proposed to ban Yik Yak at colleges

Yik Yak’s alleged contribution to abusive behavior may have been partly responsible for its downfall and subsequent four-year hiatus. However, following its return in August 2021, Yik Yak implemented policies — so-called “Community Guardrails”— which counteract bullying by establishing rules that, if broken, could result in an immediate ban of the offending user. These guidelines make Yik Yak safer by mitigating instances of abuse as much as possible while allowing the platform to maintain its guiding premise of anonymity. 

Frankly, the most severe bullying I have witnessed on 5C Yik Yak is directed at The Student Life’s Opinion section, but in my opinion the relentless mocking is funny and harmless, and surely not enough to justify a ban of Yik Yak at the Claremont Colleges. On Oct. 22, three people expressed their opinions about the TSL Opinion section: “Claremont crushes posts more controversial stuff than TSL opinions;” “leaked TSL Opinion: Racism bad.” 

Along with the potential harm Yik Yak can bring, its positive and even lifesaving effects must be considered. Reportedly, suicide intervention has occurred on Yik Yak, with users responding kindly to those expressing suicidal thoughts. An example of this can be seen within the 5C community as recently as Oct. 23: “[I’m] not going to lie, [I’m] feeling suicidal right now. Hopefully I wake up feeling better,” someone posted with a crossed fingers emoji. “Do you need someone to talk to? I can give you my number hun,” a user responded. “Nah, just need to sleep it off,” the original poster replied. “Alright, just know that people care about you. I’ve been there and trust me, it’s not worth it,” said the same user. “It gets better, I pinky-promise,” they added in a subsequent comment. A few other people, presumably students, offered their support as well. The person experiencing suicidal ideation posted an update in the morning: “[I] woke up feeling better,” with a smiley face emoji. 

In addition to suicide intervention, Yik Yak has been used as a platform to discuss urgent issues on college campuses. For example, at Syracuse University, students used Yik Yak to organize protests in response to sexual assault and rape culture in fraternities. At the 5Cs, while it does not appear that significant demonstrations have been organized through Yik Yak, students recently discussed a rumored fight which involved a security guard at the Viva Latinoamerica  party thrown on the night of Oct. 23: “Can someone explain what happened with the security guard situation?” “Not a security guard fighting students??????” “[What] the f*** is going on with campus security… transphobic?” These posts may foreshadow Yik Yak becoming a tool at the Claremont Colleges to disseminate information about violations of equity and allowing students to organize without fear of retribution from the administration. 

Yik Yak’s anonymous platform may give rise to the possibility of cyberbullying, but especially in light of Yik Yak’s new protective policies, Yik Yak can still serve as a positive force at the 5Cs. In addition to providing a space for potential suicide intervention, mental health support and activist organizing, Yik Yak connects us to our peers by reminding us that while many of us are overachievers, we are not inhuman. Yik Yak makes it evident that most of us are not so different from other college students: aimless, struggling with mental health and very, very horny. 

Porter Reyes PO ’25 is from Manhattan, New York. He is a political junkie who enjoys internet drama.

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