• Marion, Indiana

News for IWU’s Campus

by Clint Shockney and Jerah Winn

Social media plays a role in the lives of students at Indiana Wesleyan University every day.

One social media app sparking conversations in chapel the past few years is Yik Yak.

Yik Yak is a social media platform where users can post photos, videos and text anonymously.

Campus pastor Andrea Summers said the app’s usage trends each year on campus follow a similar pattern.

“I think it tends to make this little resurgence every fall when everybody gets back on campus again and they are trying to find ways to connect with each other,” Summers said.

She said Yik Yak’s popularity usually wanes as each semester and year goes on.

Senior student body chaplain Zeb Nelson said he became familiar with the app during his junior year.

“I didn’t even know what the app was until last year when I gave my testimony in chapel,” Nelson said. “I found out that there’s this app where you could post anonymous stuff, and say whatever you wanted to say.”

Nelson said that after he shared his testimony, friends told him that Yik Yak users were commenting on his story in positive and negative ways.

“I felt like, walking around campus, just uncomfortable,” Nelson said. “I wasn’t sure who was saying what and what people were thinking for a little bit after the testimony.”

Summers said the lack of accountability with anonymous platforms can cause problems.

“It just takes the human element out of it, and that’s really scary and unhealthy when we’re not accountable to one another in what we say or what we do,” Summers said.

Senior Cody Vance said that the anonymous platform can also be a way for students to express their opinions about events and people on campus.

“I’ve seen mostly positive things about chapel, where people will be giving updates on the speaker and what their opinions on the speaker are,” Vance said. “It’s a good reflection space for people.”

He also said some students use Yik Yak to post updates about campus events, dining hours and other important information.

Summers said when she first installed the app, she saw posts containing motivational messages and weather updates.

However, she deleted the app shortly after because users were posting hurtful things about her and it did not feel like a productive use of her time.

“With Yik Yak, if there’s good that comes out of it, it probably is far outweighed by the negativity,” Summers said.

Summers said what bothered her most were the posts about students she knew.

“I know students who’ve had racial things said about them, I know female students who have had sexual things said about them,” Summers said. “They go up, they do something vulnerable, maybe on the platform in chapel, and they get totally destroyed for it. That I hate, because now it’s just really unfair, unkind.”

Nelson said he talks to a lot of students who are concerned about what others might say about them on Yik Yak.

“I’d say forty to fifty percent of the people that I meet with who go to share their testimony, that is their biggest concern,” Nelson said. “Anyone who gets up on stage, I feel like there’s a general fear of like, ‘What are people going to say?’”

Nelson said placing one’s identity in Jesus is the key to preventing negative comments from affecting one’s self-image.

“I’ve had to encourage people and use my experience to give them the courage, like, ‘Yeah, you can do this, God will meet you,’” he said.

Summers said the offensive posts bothered her, but they did not have a lasting impact because of her faith-based identity.

“I know who I am,” she said. “I know who God’s called me to be.”

Summers said students have the power to shut down the negative interactions that happen on Yik Yak.

“It would just take this like, small, committed, critical mass of students to be like, ‘We will not tolerate people saying things about our fellow students,’” she said.

Nelson said God can use social media in powerful ways, but only if students use it with care.

“God sees everything you do and what you post online. He sees what you say, even in text messages,” Nelson said. “He sees all that, and so it all matters. You can’t just hide behind the phone.”

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