Earlier this morning, Senator Ted Cruz declared his candidacy for President of the United States before a packed auditorium at Liberty University. But while most reporters dutifully wrote down his promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act and get rid of the IRS, a strikingly large number of scribes turned to a new resource to get a fresh take on an otherwise by-the-numbers story: Yik Yak.
Yik Yak, the location-based social media app that allows users to chat anonymously with other people within a ten-mile radius, is particularly popular among colleges students. While thousands of Liberty University students cheered Cruz’s speech, a few took to Yik Yak to share some less enthusiastic sentiments. And some members of the media perked up, took notice, and suggested that the Yik Yak chatter, not the applause, was a better sampling of how these students really felt.
Vox noticed that the Yak space quickly filled up with snark: “Can I leave now?” “Worst. TedTalk. Ever.” Getting tired of Cruz’s “imagine a president” refrain, one student wrote, “Did John Lennon write this speech or what”
Bloomberg Politics reported that many students worried that the speech would be the perfect occasion for a terrorist attack, prompting another user, riffing on Liberty University’s evangelical mission, to joke, “Oh yeah there are a lot more than 72 virgins here”. Sill another Yik Yak talker laughed, “A girl just ditched her American flag sayin ‘I look like a dweeb holding that'”
The Washington Post also caught a few irritated or amused yaks. One person, irate that Liberty students were forced to attend Cruz’s speech, wrote, “Imagine no mandatory convos.” Another student gawked at the assembled media and wrote, “Those news vans look like they’re trying to detect signs of alien life.” The chatter grew so snarky that one person pleaded, “Today Liberty is going to be broadcasted nationally.. Please don’t give the nation another reason to hate on our school.”
The chatter diverged so dramatically from the tone of the official event that Jason Gilbert, the Technology Editor of Yahoo Tech, suggested that this election season, Yik Yak could be the go-to source for Vox Populi quotes, at least among young voters.
“The output at Liberty translated into a kind of authentic immediate reaction that you don’t get from more mediated social media networks,” Gilbert wrote. “Twitter will doubtless remain the most heavily-trafficked social media platform for events; Yik Yak could become its more interesting, unfiltered evil twin.”