Culture

Miami Yik Yak Is Wild, Y'all

Yik Yak relaunched in August.
Yik Yak relaunched in August. Screenshot via Yik Yak
Imagine you're at a house party where nobody knows each other's name.

Among the guests is a 19-year-old guy slouched in a chair spread-eagle and wearing a T-shirt from a University of Miami campus store, trying desperately — but unsuccessfully — to make eye contact with literally anyone while shouting into the void about wanting to get laid. A woman fresh out of a relationship and the oldest one here is drunkenly asking anyone who will listen whether she should get back together with a toxic ex who, apparently unbeknownst to her, is for sure a grifter. Then there's some guy in the kitchen still awake from the previous day, leaning up against a countertop and screaming about all the cocaine he did last night.

At this party, chaos reigns. Welcome to the in-person version of Miami's latest social-media platform: Yik Yak in 2021.
The social-networking smartphone app that allows users to post and comment on its platform anonymously has returned after a four-year hiatus. Those who were in college at one point or another between 2013 and 2017 likely remember it well. Users can publish short messages on what's effectively a nameless messaging board and view other posts (called "yaks") written by fellow users within a five-mile radius.

Yik Yak was founded by two college students in Atlanta and exploded in popularity — with a healthy dose of notoriety — by the end of 2014, at one point becoming one of Apple's most downloaded apps. At the peak of its success, Yik Yak was valued at roughly $400 million, according to Forbes. But the app struggled to retain active users and was accused (often) of basically being a no-holds-barred vehicle for people to lob anonymous personal attacks and threaten violence.


There was many an instance of users posting bomb threats or threatening to carry out mass shootings.

Last month, however, the app relaunched, pledging to prioritize online safety for its users and updating community guidelines to explicitly state Yik Yak's commitment to rooting out bullying, threatening language, hate speech, and sharing anyone's private information. The app will attempt to enforce a one-strike-and-you're-out policy, and any post that is "down-voted" at least five times will be automatically deleted, according to a statement from the app announcing the re-rollout.
"Today's world offers digital analogs for nearly all types of human interactions, except for those that are oftentimes most important for personal development," part of Yik Yak's statement reads. "We need risk-free, lens-free spaces to be vulnerable, to be curious, and to learn more about the people around us."

Representatives from Yik Yak did not immediately respond to inquiries about how many users in the Greater Miami area had downloaded the app since its rebirth three weeks ago.

But a New Times reporter (hi) spent some time on the app recently and logged on from various Miami-area locales, asking users to sound off in the comments about what brought them back to the Yak.

The responses ranged from insightful and earnest to brutally honest and jaded:

"I think people are desperate for a connection but have lost touch with it since the pandemic," one anonymous user within five miles of North Beach stated. "People hook up to feel a void but it never solves the issue, just a temporary band-aid."

Responded another: "I used to post the weather every day back in Chicago. Had lots of traction. Back bc of the nostalgia and bc i used to love the app."

A seemingly lonesome individual wrote: "I feel that COVID is a great contributor as well, people don't have lives anymore. Especially Miami where everybody's hobby was drugs or partying. Now it's just smoking weed at home."

"People here apparently have 0 sense of humor," lamented an anonymous soul in the five-mile vicinity, "and just want to have sex with strangers from the internet."
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Michael Majchrowicz is a staff writer at Miami New Times. He studied journalism at Indiana University and has reported for PolitiFact, The New York Times, Washington Post and Tampa Bay Times.