Anonymous Social Media Applications are popping up worldwide and making their mark in the social media realm. Yik Yak, Whisper, After School, Secret and Rumr are a few of the most-used “anonymous” applications that have gained a noteworthy presence.
What are they?
“Anonymous” social media applications allow users to conceal their identity and post messages for others within their school or community to see. Think of them as anonymous local forums. In a nutshell, “anonymous” social application users tend to send outgoing messages pertaining to gossip, rumors or random thoughts that others in the community might be able to relate to. Depending on the app itself-- the content varies.
For example, the app Yik Yak is based on your location (city, county, etc) so the content, for the most part, contains complaints, local gossip, news and humorous thoughts that others in the community might take to. However, Yik Yak is no longer accessible for underaged users. For this reason, “After School” was created and saw a rapid growth last year with a focus on teen and pre-teen users. After School can be compared to a chatroom for middle school and high school students, but with the bonus of anonymity.
Who is using them?
None of these applications are transparent about their demographic data, but it is safe to assume that the average user is younger considering many of them are targeting college-aged consumers. According to an article published by Business Insider, the creators of Yik Yak owe their profound growth to targeting college campuses.
They’re anonymous-- duh! Undoubtedly the best thing about these apps is that they conceal the identity of the user, allowing them to be more candid and open about their thoughts. Anonymous applications create a judgement-free zone for the user. They don’t have to worry about being embarrassed or shamed since their posts cannot be traced back to them (or so they think). But, with all this secrecy, comes a price.
Anonymity is the achilles heel for these apps. Although it’s what makes them so appealing and popular, it’s also the reason why many are failing. There have been many reported cases of users taking advantage of the applications being “anonymous”. As a result, bullying is no stranger to these anonymous forums.
According to an article published by the New York Times, there was a case on a college campus where professors were being harassed by students. During a lecture, instead of taking notes, some students created a live feed on Yik Yak where they posted “dozens of posts, most demeaning, many using crude, sexually explicit language and imagery”. One of the professors, Margaret Crouch was ready to take legal action, but her efforts were a dead end due to the application’s anonymity.
According to the article, Yik Yak did not disclose information when it came to this case of on-campus bullying. However, they DO work with authorities when serious physical threats are made such as death-threats or violence.
Anonymous social media apps are great for fostering an open environment where members of a community can talk freely about their most candid thoughts, updates on their surroundings, and gossip. However, many anonymous applications still have a long way to go to make their platform a safe environment for all users involved, especially minors. Parents are encouraged to stay involved with their children’s online activities.