For an unfiltered look at campus, many freshmen turn to an app

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How do you really get to know a place?

Since arriving on campus, many freshmen here say they have turned to an app on their smartphones for an unfiltered look at Fordham’s landscape, its culture and structure of social expectation on campus.

Yik Yak is an anonymous posting board, made specifically for college students to use on campus. It’s a new-age town square or campus bulletin board where speakers remain hidden, but messages shine on public display.

The app uses GPS technology to group users by their location and, specifically, college campus. Many colleges — including Fordham — has a designated page on the app that is updated live with new posts from nearby users.

Each post can be up or down voted, and replied to.

On Fordham’s page, most messages are crude, written with explicit language. And while the topics of conversation vary, alcohol and sex appear to be the most constant.

For example:

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Others air on the side of silly:

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Some are public service announcements:

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A few are sentimental, and sweet:

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Some are confessions:

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And others are more serious notes of personal frustration:

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Freshmen interviewed for this article — whose names will not be published — said that because authors are kept anonymous, students may feel liberated to write openly about the way they view their new home, and the people they share it with.

“The anonymity aspect of it seems to embolden a lot of people to say things they wouldn’t under usual circumstances,” one student said. “It can also be useful to figure out what’s going on around campus, in some cases.”

“Since it’s kept anonymous, people don’t really hold back,” another added. “You know you’re getting the truth.”

Or, are you getting the opposite of the truth?

Some tech and education experts have raised concerns about the app’s easy ability to foster bullying because of its cloak of anonymity — despite the app’s code of conduct that forbids bullying, which it requires users to agree with before use.

One freshmen at Fordham who was looking at posts to learn about parties, said the app has been known to be problematic.

“My high school had a problem with it, and blocked it,” the student said. “It can be a good means of entertainment and a fun way to interact with other students, if you use it right.”

Another said: “I like to use Yik Yak to read about people’s quirky thoughts and jokes and post my own, too, but sometimes people take their comments about others a little too far.”
 
Kyle Morton and Carolyn Fanelli contributed reporting.
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