My use and observation of posts and comments (yaks) on Yik Yak, an anonymous geo-location-based social media app, leads me to believe that perhaps we should have more discussions on the values of having good moral character. What constitutes a good moral character may be subject to debate. Still, I believe that there are certain attributes/actions we should consider as we engage on social media and in other forms of interactions. It seems to me that being kind, helpful, and not harmful even when we are engaged in highly charged conversations are basic principles we should consider and practice, regardless of whether others recognize us. Perhaps, we need to remind ourselves more of how to act and aspire to be individuals that make our world a better place.

In the world of student affairs, there are a lot of discussions regarding reputation and authenticity. They’re related to the concept of personal branding and crafting our persona and how we choose to present ourselves to our colleagues, students, and future employers. Can we be authentic, though if we are crafting our reputation and personal brand in anticipation/expectation of how others perceive us? In short, our efforts to craft our reputation are based on how we want others to perceive us. We craft ourselves as mavericks, radicals, out-of-the-box thinkers, innovators, non-conformists, passionate, dedicated professionals, and crusaders of certain causes, amongst other attributes. I’m not entirely sure which of these presentations are genuine or just facades.

On Yik Yak, the identities of those posting comments are anonymous, so one cannot build a reputation. What is interesting, though, is that even on this anonymous platform, the comments range from outright despicable and malicious to the kindest, most encouraging posts. Why is that? What drives a person to share the types of comments when their reputation is not a factor? I personally have had to block some individual(s) because of the vulgar and disgusting comments they post. I can still see their comments after I’ve blocked them (they appear as “This reply has been deleted.” to others), and consistently, they post the same types of malicious comments.

There are other users. However, that post supportive and encouraging comments as a reply to a yak that expresses the need for support. For example, several times, I’ve seen yaks from individuals who are depressed or considering suicide. Immediately, other users reply, sharing their experience and support and encouraging them to consider seeking professional help through our school’s counseling services.yikyak_support

I’ve also had civil and respectful debates about national and local events and issues that I can’t have on Twitter or Facebook because those involved in these debates can be honest about their perspectives without fear or retribution or being shamed.

As we educate ourselves and others on how to effectively use social media, let’s go beyond the mechanics and how to build a digital reputation. Let’s remind ourselves what it takes to be good human beings.