Anonymous Social Networking: Friend or Foe

BY: Chelsea Zahler

Staff Writer

Anonymous social networking has undoubtedly become popular over the last few years with the emergence of apps like Yik Yak and Whisper. For many, it’s considered liberating to post whatever they please and hide behind anonymity. Too often, as I scroll through my Yik Yak feed, I’m amazed at what people are willing to post when their name is not attached. Intimate sexual details and drug usage are broadcasted with pride. Slurs against roommates and teammates are thrown around carelessly. But hey, it’s all anonymous, right? That roommate will never know about your complaints of their B.O. and that girlfriend will never know about your three drunken cheating sprees…Or so we all like to think as we post something we’d never let our family members on Facebook see. But here’s the scary truth- anonymous isn’t really anonymous.

Following the infamous Yik Yak scandal of SUNY Canton, it took a mere couple of days to have charges brought up against the alleged guilty party. A few phone calls to the company was all that it took for a name and telephone number to be produced, linking the threatening post to a Canton student. While feeling relieved for our fellow Canton residents, perhaps some of St. Lawrence University missed an important piece of what the charging of this student meant. This anonymous app is run by a company of real, live people, and while us Laurentians may have no idea who’s posting what, those people do. Your name and number is attached to everything you post.

For the majority of SLU students, still there’s no real cause for concern. As long as you’re not posting about gun violence, you should be golden. I’d like to reiterate once again that anonymous isn’t really anonymous, however. There is always that distinct possibility of you leaving your phone unattended and having someone look through its contents. (For those of you with a passcode, keep in mind that your phone is still accessible for a solid minute if left on and not clicked to the lock screen). Whether it’s a curious significant other, a nosy mother or a friend just joking around, the repercussions of what you’ve posted under the false promise of anonymity could be severe.

While half of Yik Yak’s humor comes from the natural boldness that an anonymous social networking site gives, let’s all take a quick second to think before we post again. Would we ever post this on another networking site if our names were attached for all of our family and friends to see? Your post in question doesn’t have to be appropriate enough for your grandmother necessarily, but if you also wouldn’t feel comfortable to show that post to your older sibling or fun aunt, maybe it’s not meant to be posted at all.

About the author

Olivia White '17