Yes, the first thing you want to do, after reading the posts on Yik Yak, is weep for the future of humanity.
The new mobile app, aimed at college students, lets you post short, anonymous messages within a 1.5 mile radius — and gained recent fame as an insta-tool for high school and middle school bullies. But even setting aside the meanness, there’s not much to recommend it; as far as I can tell, it’s mostly populated by candidates for the Lowest Common Denominator Club. In my geographic bubble this week, I found a lot of misogyny, some off-color jokes, and precious few posts I could even consider reprinting, beyond “Why does this elevator smell like urine and cake?”
Still, the more I’ve learned about Yik Yak, the more I’ve actually found heartening — not about the app itself, but about the way the world now reacts to a social networking tool with negative social value.
■ Teenagers realize the Internet is forever: That doesn’t mean they’re going to exercise perfect judgment. But the rising popularity of anonymous messaging boards — Yik Yak and similar apps with names like Secret, Whisper, and UMentioned — partly proves that Internet education campaigns are working.
Teens now understand that bad things can happen when their names are attached to awful thoughts, and that their Facebook posts can become their permanent records, said Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. (They’ve also become aware, he said, that their mothers are always on Facebook.) The next lesson should be more basic: If you know this is something you shouldn’t be saying, don’t say it.
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