On September 1, 2014, before the new college semester started, I posted Is Yik Yak really anonymous? as I thought people might google it. They do, and a lot of people read this article. Hopefully it saved someone, or a lot of people, a great deal of heartache. I figured that the anonymous social app would take off. Admittedly, I had no idea it would as popular as it is today.
With the advent of anonymous, proximity based social apps becoming very popular lately, problems are sure to arise. Of course, none of these apps are actually anonymous; do something stupid on one of them and you can expect to be hunted down and arrested in just a few short hours. When your phone or mobile device connects to a mobile network it is given an IP address; this is networking 101. Your Internet provider knows precisely who you are, that is how they send data to you (it is kind of like having an address that mail is delivered to). Sure, if you open up your “anonymous” app of choice and post about strawberries and butterflies, chances are nobody will ever know who you are. However, if you start making bomb threats, of course you can and will be arrested, as you should be.
I have been keeping a log of the latest Yik Yak arrests called the Yik Yak Arrests Timeline. Nearly 30 people have been arrested for making Yik Yak threats, all between the ages of 16 and 20 years old. These kids have their whole lives ahead of them. Depending on which state they are in and what they’ve typed they may be arrested for anything from a misdemeanor to a felony terrorist threat, and I can’t imagine that looks very appealing on a resume or job application.
Desire and Opportunity
As a teen I very briefly worked in security and studied loss prevention. I learned that for a crime to take place, two things must be present: desire and opportunity.
I also learned that many small crimes, such as petit larceny, are committed on impulse.
Now, if you are a teenager and your judgement isn’t that great, and you have the desire to upset a bunch of people, all you have to do is tap on an app, swipe out a few words of hate, and hit send. This makes anonymous social apps the perfect opportunity to completely screw up your life in a matter of seconds on a whim.
What is normal?
Being upset is normal. If you’re upset, talk to someone about it. Hit the gym. Go for a walk. If this is a feeling you have often, seek professional help. Telling a few thousand innocent strangers that you’re going to blow them up is not normal. Don’t do it. It isn’t funny, and you’re going to go to prison for it. “Anonymous” social apps aren’t going anywhere any time soon; venture capitalists are funding them, and they are growing in popularity by the second. Yik Yak, Secret, Cloaq, DormChat, Unseen, and plenty of others are here now, and they’re not anonymous.