Its operation is like Snapchat but more visible and completely unfiltered. “By cloning Snapchat’s visual layout and campus chatter app Yik Yak’s open browsing structure—you don’t have to discover and add specific accounts, just peruse a list of schools and check in wherever you like—Yeti is the no-holds-barred hybrid app of an 18-year-old binge drinker’s dreams. You’ll find drinking games, white powder and hundred-dollar bills, laughing young people with the caption ‘Shrooms,’ birthday candles sticking out of water bongs, containers of muscle relaxers and Adderall, enormous nuggets of weed, and ‘post-smash’ selfies and nude photos.” This is scarier than Yik Yik which operates like anonymous twitter but it is limited to a 1.5 mile radius usually surrounding college campuses.
College students today believe that they have solved the privacy concerns that are inevitably connected with sharing on social media platforms. These students have taken their parents’ warnings about what they share and they have treaded with(out?) caution by creating innovative ways to make ephemeral technology a better way to connect compared to a platform like Facebook in which your profile acts like a permanent chronicle of one’s life. Students know employers continue to check social media and they believe that they have outsmarted their predecessors. These students think they have become more elusive by using apps that pride themselves on anonymity.
By believing they have shielded themselves from liability, these students act invincible, but in reality, their solutions are problems that leave themselves vulnerable to criminal liability and other dangerous situations that compromise the safety of their peers on campus and beyond into the digital world.
Despite the innovation that is fostered in these college campus settings like Yik-Yak at Furman, there must be a way to keep these apps relevant without undermining their purpose. Snapchat and Yeti are both born out of the deceptive notion that sharing photos of memories and sending it instantly creates memories that are important enough to share but not appropriate to be apart of the timeline of one’s life. Similarly, the tantamount function of sharing enables these apps to provide the most basic online forum on campuses for free speech where there is no fear of judgment. However, these apps will need to determine which interests are more important: safety or speech. In order for them to succeed, it feels like both interests cannot be served without compromising the other. “This is unquestionably a tipping point for photo-sharing platforms, and it looks like they’re on the cusp of becoming a serious problem for students. In most respects they’re tailor-made for bullying, revenge porn, and the creation of criminal evidence.” Because of this, there will be a new shift in how these apps operate and what the response will be in order to better serve campuses at large. As the apps continue to grow, it will no longer be about college students but the fear is that an already growing population of minors in high school will use these apps for more than innocent moments at school.
Despite the looming liabilities beyond campuses across America, there must be a broader conversation if these forms of communication actually serve as progress. Despite the money to be made and the ingenuity involved in these ephemeral technological apps, they seem to do more harm than good. Over sharing is really no different than it was fifteen years ago, but it has more implications than ever before. The more shared, the more at risk and despite students and young people becoming more privy to this notion, they are willing to be reckless in the name of doing it FTY.