by | Dec 4, 2014 | Pop Culture

Yik Yak logo
Yik Yak logo

Yik Yak logo

‘Tis the season. Not yet for Christmas, for Santas and for carols, but ’tis the season of light, that is: Advent. We put lights on our houses, and lights on our trees; we light the candles on our wreath. For us in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting shorter, the nights are beginning earlier, and the days are darker. For those of us up here who happen to be students, we’ve got a double-whammy of darkness: not only are the days getting literally darker, but projects, papers, and presentations bear down with haste and urgency; ‘tis the season of finals, too.

I happen to be a stressed student myself, but I wasn’t so acutely aware of the anxiety and depressive darkness billowing over campus until I plugged into the campus Yik Yak; I found all that and much, much, much more.

Yik Yak is an app that’s gotten real big, real fast. It’s essentially a live feed of local and anonymously-posted statements called Yaks, normally not more than a sentence or two, that are upvoted, downvoted and can trend (or vanish into the internets) accordingly. Essentially think of Yik Yak like a mix between PostSecret with its vulnerability, Craigslist with its wide reach, and the sign-stapled telephone pole at your street corner for its locality. Not too complicated – I learned it this week.

Yaks are posted, climb and crash at astonishing rates and volumes in busy urban areas and especially around college campuses, and give an interesting pulse on what’s going on, what’s not going on, for better and for much worse. In other words, a lot of drugs, sex and poop jokes intermingled with witty observations, sarcastic quips and vented aggressions. But there’s more. Much more. The depressed Yaks. The lonely Yaks. The stressed Yaks. Now, of course, being totally anonymous, we have no way of knowing just who’s behind each of these, whether there is actually a depressed Yak-ker, a lonely Yak-ker, or a stressed Yak-ker. But why not? It’s a place to be vulnerable without the exposure but maybe some affirmation (a few upvotes, a solidarity comment) that you’re not alone.

Yik Yak is a fascinating confluence of jokes and confessions, light and dark, triumph and defeat. Sometimes I need to remind myself of the one sure thing in Yik Yak: these feeds are filled by real people, with real fingers typing real things. But just as hope and resilience and celebration and good news don’t make headlines in today’s media,nor do they tend to get upvoted in Yik Yak. Stress and frustrations prevail.

Advent is a time of light breaking into darkness. What if we lit a little candle that we took into the Yik Yak feed? What if we started listening, reading for needs behind Yaks, responding as a friend to a friend, not kitschy or preachy but simply and genuinely kind and affirming? A witty encouragement? A reassuring “me, too”? Some smiley faces? What if we started a little Advent trend: #RandomYaksofKindness.

What do we have to lose? It’s all anonymous, remember? Anonymous doesn’t mean meaningless, it just means that we might not see the fruits of our love, that we won’t see the ‘look on their face’, that we won’t get any recognition.  Who knows what a little thing one person writes and another person reads can do for someone’s day, for their week? But in the meantime, these #RandomYaksofKindness are working on us, preparing our minds and hearts for a Light reborn each year, reborn in our creative responses to people all around us; Light is daily and yearly reborn in our love for one another, whether in our homes, on the streets or in the feeds.

Hope: coming soon to a Yik Yak feed near you. But watch out, this can get addicting…


Garrett Gundlach, SJ

ggundlachsj@thejesuitpost.org   /   All posts by Garrett