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In what could best be described as a social media community building exercise, Colgate University faculty took to Yik Yak in droves last week. Instead of ignoring the controversial app, more than 50 faculty members shared a variety of comments within a 1.5 mile "yak" radius.
For most of the faculty who participated, this was their first time using the anonymous social app. According to associate professor Geoff Holm, the organizer of the event, "I think the students learned (or at least had it reinforced) that Colgate professors are really invested in the campus community and genuinely care for their students both inside and outside the classroom." With a focus on engagement and positivity, Holm said that he hopes that "students learned that anonymous posts to social media are viewed by more than just their immediate peers, and that a little bit of positivity can be helpful during stressful times."
Judging by the number of "upvotes" and "yakarma" that Colgate University professor's received/generated on Yik Yik, the "take-back" was well-received. Like a lot of social media platforms, the communication is what we make of it. At times, Yik Yak can be a nasty place for anonymous "junk." However, even with anonymity, positive engagement can happen and community can be built.
Another aspect of this event was that faculty entered a space that needed their voice. "As for faculty, I think that while many knew about Yik Yak, they didn't have direct experience with it," said Holm. "This provided an opportunity to see a part of campus culture that they weren't privy to previously; it seems like some profs really enjoyed posting messages, and so maybe will continue to post in the future."
Will we continue to see news headlines that list Yik Yak as a conduit for anonymous negativity in 2015? Probably. But as professors at Colgate University have shown, a lot of goodwill can be generated via the app.
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Special thanks to Matt Hames at Colgate University for sending me a collection of Colgate University Yik Yak screenshots.