“Overheard is dead,” the Journal’s Production Manager Sam Koebrich proclaimed in a signed editorial published on Sept. 24.
Attacking the popular Facebook group Overheard at Queen’s, his statements caused quite a stir on campus and many took him to task.
Since September, strange new stirrings have been spotted on campus — but this time not on Facebook. A novel social media app called YikYak has taken the Queen’s community by storm.
If designed and used correctly, social media platforms can help communities thrive in the digital age. Just look at Overheard at Queen’s, whose nearly 20,000 members attest to the strength of the Queen’s community online.
In many ways, YikYak is quite similar to the “dead” Facebook group.
At its best, Overheard provides meaningful dialogue, as demonstrated by the “anonymous quotes that showcased a grittier side of Queen’s homogeneity,” Koebrich wrote.
There’s no shortage of gritty, anonymous quotes on YikYak. Combining GPS and instant messaging technologies, the app allows users to anonymously interact with smartphone users nearby. Users create, share, vote on and respond to short anonymous messages with one another in a public forum.
Much like Overheard, YikYak paints a picture of student life at Queen’s. It functions based on proximity, so in places like the University District, the app is virtually flooded with posts from Queen’s students.
At the start of the term, some local users even celebrated the return of students to campus because it meant that YikYak would be more entertaining.
If Overheard truly is dead, then perhaps YikYak is here to fill its space. While Overheard was criticized for becoming so vulgar, oversensitive and strictly moderated that it lost its edge, YikYak is quite un-moderated. It’s a place where anything goes.
There’s some congruity between posts that show up on YikYak around campus and those on Overheard. One interesting parallel is the references to local squirrel culture: “Just a small town squirrel, livin’ in a lonely world,” one user writes.
Its whimsical and anonymous nature allows the app to showcase other sides of student life. For example, one user asked, “If a girl made eye contact and we smile at each other does that mean she’s interested or just being polite?” and received 10 responses of varying sincerity.
In this way, YikYak shows a breadth of the thoughts that interest Queen’s students day-to-day. With its mobile format and constant stream of fresh content, YikYak isn’t the place for drawn-out arguments, like those infamous on Overheard. It’s a place where Queen’s students can connect, jest and empathize with one another on a quick and casual basis.
YikYak also doesn’t support images. The app is free from photos of tricolour objects and Canada Goose jackets. This difference sets the YikYak app apart from Overheard, which Koebrich claimed now portrays a parody of the Queen’s community, rather than a meaningful reflection.
“Overheard was once a place for words and dialogue,” he wrote. Has YikYak risen from Overheard’s ashes?
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