I was enjoying my long commute into the office a few weeks ago and was listening to the podcast Reply All from Gimlet Media. These shows are typically pretty funny, quick stories about something on the internet. This particular episode wasn't very funny. It was all about these new Anonymous Apps like YikYak and one particular story about how this app was used at Colgate University to harass and threaten many minority students.
The story was pretty upsetting for a few reasons. The first being obvious and not understanding where all this hate comes from in people, and why on earth they think it is okay to blurt it out to the world. The second part was anger towards applications like YikYak and the many other similar apps out there that create a channel for this type of noise. Before these apps existed people would need to physically say things to people which is difficult on its own, and even more difficult if you want to say mean terrible things. These apps open that up so things can be said without any effort. Even worse these apps allow other people to vote up these terrible comments.
This old Louis C.K. video does a good job of explaining this whole being mean to people being easier over texting. Posting anonymously makes that even easier.
I searched around the internet trying to find someone explaining a possible positive usage for an an application that allows anonymous posting. The closest I found was in countries with less freedom of speech and possible fear of being jailed for talking, but in the U.S.A. there seems to be little to no reason to use an app like this.
It is easy to do the opposite search and find many articles about misuse of this type of app. High school bullying forced some of these apps to add a feature to block the usage in and around the actual school. That seems like a great thing for a high school to have to deal with on top of all the other things they need to worry about.
A few questions I have that I don't think I can ever get a grasp on:
- What did the founders of these types of companies think they were creating? Did they realize the users they were targeting? Maybe it was: "Kid's are bullying on Facebook and getting in trouble, we really need to solve that problem by letting them bully anonymously!"
- What were the investors in these companies thinking?
I had that rant building in me for a few weeks now. It felt good to get it out!