In Topeka Kansas, what seems to be the ultimate neighborhood rivalry is drawing attention to one of the largest equal rights movements of our time. The Westboro Baptist Church, a group known for its extremely homophobic teachings, found their new neighbors, dare I say, colorful. Across the street from the “church” lies the Equality House, the bungalow is painted to resemble a rainbow, the universal symbol for LGBTQ rights. The Equality House is funded by the charity Planting Peace and has become something of a safe haven for members of the gay community.
Oddly enough, it is said that despite the opposing views of the neighbors, daily interactions have remained “cordial.” In the 18 months since the conflict was presented with the arrival of the Equality House, interactions between the two groups have included small talk, and acts of compassion from both sides of the street. When someone stole the Equality House’s pride flag and placed them on the church’s lawn, its members kindly placed the flags in the House’s mailbox. Alternately, members of the Equality House once sent text messages to members of the church to extend their condolences for the loss of Fred Phelps, the church’s founder. The two groups have exchanged home numbers.
Unfortunately, not all interactions are positive. Rebekah Phelps-Davis of Westboro stated “We are friendly with them” but still adds “we will not be friends with them.” Most of the conflict between the two groups has taken place on social media. Davis Hammet, a charity worker for Planting Peace, describes the Equality House’s social media interaction with Westboro saying “One time we tweeted them a picture of rainbow pancakes and asked them if they’d like to come over for breakfast. They just tweeted back that we should burn in hell.” Contrastingly Westboro is said to have challenged the Equality House to a strange variation on the ALS ice bucket challenge by dumping ice water on a “Hell is Eternal” placard.
YikYak is a new form of social media that has recently become extremely popular among college students. It is an anonymous forum where one can post whatever they want about their school and the people that attend the school with them. With the emergence of this new technology there are both people who love it and see it as fun way to interact anonymously with classmates and others who think that this form of social media is harmful and that its whole premise is grounds for anonymous cyber bullying.
This app was created and launched by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington both students at Furman University. In three months the app already has 100,000 monthly active users and there are roughly 15,000 messages that go up every day (Crook). According to creator Tyler Droll “Yakking is the welcoming, authentic and anonymous version of tweeting”. According to psychiatrist Keith Ablow this translates to a chat room where people can post his or her comments completely anonymously regardless of if they are untruthful, mean, or character-assassinating. He also states that psychologically YikYak removes all human characteristics such as empathy and connecting with other human beings because when you are anonymous behind a screen these emotions are not there (Ablow).
When a student gets onto YikYak, they feel like they can do whatever they want because no one will ever know who it is and that gives them power. Some things posted on YikYak can harm a person’s self-confidence and reputation even if they aren’t true.
Since its launch YikYak has already received flak from many schools and organizations because of the ease of causing problems not only among people but also causing problems in whole communities and schools. There have been schools in Massachusetts, Chicago, Connecticut, and California who have had to evacuate because of shooting and bomb threats made on YikYak that are still unsolved.
YikYak has already infiltrated Bluffton University’s campus. If you were to get onto the app right now there would be a newsfeed of a variety of things. Some of these things are harmless and fun while other posts are vicious and target out specific people on campus. These kinds of posts can deeply traumatize the people that they are directed at. How would you feel if you were the one being targeted? Would you want your reputation tarnished or your heart broken by a fellow classmate? Is what you are posting something that you would want to see about yourself? Would you post this post if everyone could see who was saying it? These are all things that you should consider before you post anything about anyone on this anonymous app.