Digital Rhetoric and Yik Yak

I recently downloaded Yik Yak onto my phone and while scrolling through it today in procrastination I realized that this would be a perfect example of a medium to analyze for its digital rhetoric. For those who don’t know, Yik Yak works as an anonymous Twitter that filters posts by geographic location. This app is popular on college campuses and allows students to create a sense of community by yakking posts that are relevant to their peers. The confines of this app have sparked unique forms of digital rhetoric. With a 200-character limit, the app has compelled users to use concise language in a similar fashion to Twitter. With no way to include pictures, tags, or links, users must come up with creative posts using only words and emojis. Posts can be “upvoted” or “downvoted,” giving users an incentive to say something that appeals to their audience. Again, the geographic radius limit means that their audience is the people around them. For example, if someone yaks on U of M’s campus, the Yaks would need to appeal to students who attend U of M. The downvote button incentivizes users to post only nice things; just five downvotes on a post will automatically delete a post and a user who creates too many downvoted posts will be suspended. Thus, although some offensive posts are bound to survive, the creators of the app have attempted to establish a non-hostile environment. In addition, users can comment on each other’s posts, allowing for anonymous dialogue between strangers in a community.

Since this app is relatively new, the creators are constantly developing and adding features. The digital rhetoric available to the users will inevitably increase with every new feature as users gain tools to put forth their ideas and appeal to their audience. I am curious to see in what direction the digital rhetoric heads!

Annie Humphrey

Boston, MA native. Senior BCN major with premed focus. I love singing, writing, and having meaningful conversations with people.

3 thoughts to “Digital Rhetoric and Yik Yak”

  1. Looking back at my post I feel like I didn’t relate what I was saying back to the prompt well. I consider Yik Yak to be a compelling form of digital rhetoric because it is a very different way of conveying one’s thoughts to an audience compared to non-digital forms or even other digital forms. As of yet, there is no other way for one to communicate one’s thoughts anonymously to anyone in a particular geographic location and receive instant feedback. The constraints of the app, such as limited location and limited characters inherently influence the rhetoric users employ. For example, they must be more concise with their language and come up with statements that will appeal to complete strangers in their community. The digital rhetoric that users employ is compelling because it ties into the trend of social media apps that encourage users to be clever as concisely as possible in order to receive instant gratification of a “like,” “favorite,” “upvote” etc. The anonymity aspect alters the rhetoric because it decreases accountability and allows users to feel as if they can post anything (which is counteracted by the downvoting incentive). The most fascinating aspect is posting to the geographic location part. I know Twitter has been integral to various causes organizing campaigns and rallies, but Yik Yak could become even more useful since it reaches everyone with the app in a specific location. However, the anonymity aspect may cause a lot of misinformation to spread as well.

    I’m still not sure how good of a job I did clarifying how Yik Yak uses rhetoric but I hope this helps!

  2. I only found about Yik Yak recently, but I definitely think it shows how rhetoric has changed through digital media. I definitely agree with your point that character limits and voting really puts the pressure on what we say. It even takes it a step farther from Twitter- you probably wouldn’t just talk about what you had for lunch or mention that a cute baby made you laugh on Yik Yak, it has to be funny and much more relevant to everyone in your area. The limited location also adds a weirdly communal aspect to it. I know I’ve heard my friends say things like “oh look, everyone on Yik Yak is complaining about the calc exam!” or something to that effect. Again, on Twitter, it probably wouldn’t be as popular of a tweet, but since your posts are only shown to people around you who are going through many of the same things, it definitely encourages more of a community environment.

  3. I really like the emphasis that Yik Yak places on words. Unlike Twitter, which now has the capability of posting pictures and videos, it seems that Yik Yak is staying true to its original intent of focusing on concise, clear, and moving text. The whole voting aspect of the app is very interesting, also. With the ability for people to use harsh words behind the screens of their computers or phones, this seems like a great way to establish a safe environment for Yik Yak’s users. I agree with you that the anonymous nature of this site is very interesting, especially since it is based on one’s geographic location. In my opinion, it would be helpful to know who posted what. It would be a great way to link people in similar locations with similar interests. I am curious as to if there are any implications for change in this way in the future. Thanks for sharing!

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