Aviva Maxon ‘24
Yik Yak is a (mostly) anonymous social media site where people can post their thoughts viewed by people within a five-mile radius. Fizz is also a (mostly) anonymous social media site, where people can post their thoughts and pictures with people who are verified to go to the same college (or set of colleges in the case of the Claremont Colleges). Yik Yak originally started in 2013, made a comeback in 2021, and quickly gained popularity at the Claremont Colleges.
People were drawn to Yik Yak for the ability to talk freely, ask questions, and learn what was happening around campus. Not long after returning to campus this fall, rumors of a new Yik Yak-like app started, which then turned into the launch of Fizz. As the day approached, people were bombarded with advertisements and DMs telling them to download the app. For a few days on Yik Yak almost every Yak was about Fizz, its publicity stunts, and the push to switch to Fizz. The conversation on Yik Yak mostly centered on whether Fizz would still allow the amount of free speech that people had become accustomed to on Yik Yak.
There are a few things that make Fizz different from Yik Yak: it makes you verify who you are (though posts are still anonymous) and has moderators. The need to verify your identity on Fizz scared many who were worried their words could be traced back to them.
Now, this poses the question: what are you posting that you would not want connected to you on Yik Yak? Yik Yak’s lack of moderation allows anyone to say anything, which includes harassment and sexual content. At one point last winter, a student who runs a popular Instagram account on campus was a debated topic on Yik Yak, which led to the student’s name and dorm building being posted. While the student had some supporters, they were generally outnumbered and quieter than the harassers.
The sexual content on the platform is also problematic. From hyper-sexual discussions to objectification, mostly of women and queer people, Yik Yak can be triggering and put people in conversations they do not belong in. There is a feeling that Yik Yak is not a safe space for marginalized people. One user, Ella Lehavi ‘24 said, “It can be funny and a good way to get input you wouldn’t otherwise get on things you don’t want attached to yourself. It’s useful for updates on dining halls, parties, or other aspects of campus life. Like a traffic app. But it’s also not a safe space.” While Lehavi has not been able to use Fizz, as it is only available on iPhone, others said that Fizz has less cyberbullying and is generally a safer space.
The case for free speech is always a hot topic on campus and compels us to unpack the difference between free speech, hate speech, and harassment. The consequences on an anonymous platform for hate speech and harassment are much less, if any, than on a traceable platform or in person. This lets people say things they would not say in other contexts because there are no punishments. However, being able to say whatever you want does not mean there are no consequences to what you say.
The general consensus around Fizz is ambivalence. It exists as a generally free space to share thoughts, events, and updates while not having as much harassment. However, it seems that Fizz inflates the number of users on the app. Posts will regularly have upwards of 200 upvotes within a few hours of being posted, even though most people are not checking Fizz that regularly. Fizz also allows different types of media, such as polls, photos, memes, and text, which widens possibilities on the platform. The posts on Fizz are generally more appropriate and tend to not contain the sexual material that is so prevalent on Yik Yak. The moderating does make Fizz a safer place for most, although Fizz has a smaller user base than Yik Yak.
In the anonymous worlds of Yik Yak and Fizz, it is important to remember both platforms have their issues but can be utilized if we all agree to go forward with kindness and think before we speak.
Image Source: Medium