College campuses across the country are linked by one thing this year in the form of a social media app called Yik Yak.

If any Florida Southern College student was asked what Yik Yak is, there is no doubt that the majority could give a fairly accurate explanation, with many being strong supporters due to the humor and entertainment that it can often provide.

Some students choose to approach the app with a sense of humor and take it lightly.

“It’s hilarious, but I don’t really trust anything it says anymore after someone lied about there being dino nuggets in the caf,” FSC sophomore Georgia Dean joked.

Others feel that it is affecting the lives of fellow students and shouldn’t be receiving the attention that it is currently.

[pullquote]“Yik Yak is too much negativity that nobody should add to their lives,” FSC senior Kenzie McMullen said.[/pullquote]

Regardless, what began as an anonymous bulletin to see what people around you are saying has quickly evolved into something bigger and more serious. The college and many FSC students have found themselves under fire and the cyber bullying has become a trend amongst many other campuses across the states, with some even receiving threats via the app.

“I think it’s one of the worst things that could happen to our generation. I just really don’t like how people can hide behind a computer screen,” FSC junior Ashley Buckley said.

Buckley reflects on her middle school and high school years, remembering that although cyber bullying was present, it was via AIM or Myspace. It was a simpler time when people could not remain anonymous in their messages on the internet.

“Let me tell you, if we could see the name of who wrote what, people wouldn’t write stuff anymore,” Buckley said. “I’m a really confrontational person, so I would rather confront someone face-to-face if I have a problem so this, to me, is just ridiculous.”

As an app that has no affiliation with FSC and having no way to track who is speaking negatively on it, it is difficult to say how the issue at hand can be controlled.

Ray Lader, director of student development for accountability, compliance and education at FSC, hopes to see the content shift and develop a natural control over time.

“One of the things that I would love to see happen here, and I’ve seen happen on other campuses, is the students kind of take the lead on it,” Lader said. “When something negative is said, they respond with positives. If you overwhelm the negatives with the positives, eventually the negatives lose the motivation to keep wanting to post those thoughts.”

Buckley agrees with this sentiment saying that her main goal is to overflow Yik Yak with positivity, moving away from hostility, and she has been encouraging her peers to do so.

Lader has already noticed that shift beginning at FSC on occasion.

“I was impressed during convocation, I happened to be sitting and looking at Yik Yak just to try and understand this new thing that has popped up in the campus community. There were some pretty nasty things being said because people had to wait for convocation,” Lader said. “Once the speaker started and they realized how amazing he was, people on Yik Yak were quickly going to the negative comments and saying ‘No this isn’t right, this isn’t how you should be acting.”

“It’s that type of culture that would be amazing to see be able to grow, since that’s the only way that we can really combat the new anonymous cyber bullying trend that’s happening across the country,” Lader said.

Lader also mentioned that many students may be using the app solely for entertainment, with no intent of hurting their peers.

“They may not realize that what they’re saying is going to hit someone’s soul and heart and can really hurt them,” Lader said. “Face-to-face communication is the strongest because you’re able to see body language, you have intonation and eye contact, you can really take everything in and let your mind process it to make sure someone is telling you the truth or what their intent is.”

The creators of Yik Yak have already made an attempt of their own to limit whom uses the app. Since its release it has been adjusted in the iTunes app store to be only available to those users over 17 years old, although this restriction is fairly easy to get around.

In addition, Yik Yak also has the ability to limit the GPS coordinates in which yaks can be written and viewed. This is being enforced particularly in middle and high schools.

Due to this change, you are likely to see a message saying “It looks like you are using this at a high school or middle school which is not allowed. Sending and reading messages is disabled,” on many campuses across America.

There is no foolproof way to control content and distinguish between the entertaining posts and the negative posts.

For this reason it is important that those who have felt personally attacked on Yik Yak know that they can talk to someone.

“Any student who feels that these situations are happening to them, report it to us. Come to us, give us a chance to see if we can do something about it,” Lader said. “When you are dealing with it on your own, you feel alone.”

Lader advises students to contact him at the Student Development office, staff members in the counseling center, Dr. Marcie Pospichal, Marc Tuschen or any other person on campus that they are comfortable with if they are faced with negative situations in hopes of getting advice or resources to help.