Yik Yak, the anonymous instant messaging app, was once all the rage on college campuses. People alleged that it caused cyberbullying, but everyone still used it to talk about happenings on campus, from social events to the weather. New posts popped up every few seconds, and it was all the rage.
Fast forward one year, however, and Yik Yak has slowly faded away from the college psyche. Some say it’s because they don’t have time for it, while others say they stopped using it because it doesn’t have the personal feel of Facebook – finding out what strangers think is fun for a bit, but what’s really important are your friends. Posts that once were seconds apart have now become up to 10 minutes apart from each other, and it’s mostly just people looking to hook up.
This isn’t a problem at a just a single campus though – it’s happening everywhere. Since last fall, downloads of the app have fallen, college campuses have banned its use and it fell off the Google Play top charts.
When I talked to people on my campus, the University of Massachusetts, I had trouble finding people who still use the app. Most people told me they used to, but it took up too much time. They could procrastinate in other ways, and the posts got too repetitive to be funny. Among this sea of app abandoners, I did find one user who confessed that she uses Yik Yak as a confidence booster. She posts things that she thinks will get more than 50 upvotes, and it feels good to have so many people like what she says.
Despite the fall, 98 percent of Yik Yak users are millenials between the ages of 18 and 34. Yik Yak, at the end of 2014, had 3.6 million active users, but as downloads have flatlined and users have evidently stopped using the service, it’s unclear how many active users Yik Yak has left.
Why is this? Why did Yik Yak soar so high, only to fall so quickly? One reason, again, could be the lack of a personal touch – nobody knows who they’re talking to, so it’s hard to have a connection.
However, a bigger reason may be that Yik Yak refused to reach out to high school students – they wanted Yik Yak to be primarily a college service, geofencing off high schools so that younger students couldn’t even access the app. This, however, meant that when those students got to college, they had no familiarity with Yik Yak. Since most of them had spent their high school years chatting with other apps, like Facebook, it just didn’t make much sense to abandon what they knew for an app that wasn’t quite as good as what they were already using.
Yik Yak was also uniquely faced with the challenge of keeping users engaged on a platform that ebbs and flows with the school term. Most of the students I spoke with told me that after coming back from the summer, they had fallen out of the rhythm of using it every day and had other things to do at the beginning of the semester than remember an app on their phone.
Yik Yak tried its best to combat this, introducing “Herds” and “Home Base” to the app, which allows users to set a location as their primary place and still see posts about it while they’re away. The problem, though, is that nobody is posting on Yik Yak at college campuses during breaks – everyone is at home relaxing instead of organizing events or complaining about professors.
So, as happens with fads, Yik Yak is slowly disappearing from college campuses, just as Beanie Babies began disappearing from bedrooms years ago. Perhaps someday there will be a 2010s themed party, and someone will show up dressed as the Yak or have other Yik Yak merchandise. But until it’s “retro,” Yik Yak is just not cool anymore.
Patrick Hoff is a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has spent the last three years writing and editing at his college newspaper, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. He has written for a number of publications, including Jyrno and The Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts, as well as writing for the blog at the Institute for Community Inclusion.
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