Have you ever been attacked through social media? It doesn’t seem like a harmful tool until it’s used hurt someone with whom you are personally connected.
I don’t use Yik Yak because of the negative connotations I have heard associated with it, and what happened last month confirmed my fears. A good friend of mine from high school took a screenshot of a Yak that was obviously singling his Tourette’s syndrome in an offensive manner. Instead of ignoring it and moving on, he posted a mature response on Facebook:
“To my non UCI friends who couldn't see what happened today/tonight: I was given a bit of a speed bump in the mid morning after my probability class. It looked like someone was scared I was going to break the curve for the class, so they went on the social media app, yik yak, and talked smack about my Tourette's. I decided to give a very Vistamarian response to the strings. I posted my response on 3 class facebook pages and it got 600 + likes and counting on all three of them followed by lots of fan mail and friend requests... here was the post and the photo below:
Hello all, I’m positing this string of posts from Yik Yak to the class Facebook page because they were regarding ME! Firstly, I want to give everyone a brief introduction to Tourette’s syndrome. Tourette’s is a neurological condition that causes individuals to have certain “ticks” (i.e. uncontrollable habits). The “weird noise” that the people on the Yik Yak string were referring to was my tick, which happens to be a noise that sounds like a strange hiccup. Before I go any farther, please know that this string had no negative emotional effect on me personally. I’m extremely proud of the person that I am today and I have no shame whatsoever about having Tourette’s because it wasn’t a life choice of mine. Regardless of my feelings (or lack of) about the string, whoever started this string should be completely ashamed of themself because it is strings like this that make tons of young adults across the country commit suicide. And would you really want any association to a suicide? The reason why I wanted to direct this to everyone’s attention is to show that the general majority of UC Irvine does not tolerate this kind of behavior. We are a thriving and a diverse university that embraces everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, mental conditions, etc. Unfortunately, there are a countable number of people on this campus who are also affected by strings similar to this. And I can only hope that more people will take the initiative to drill into our Anteater community that such behavior is not acceptable! Lastly, I hope that people who are put down know that there are tons of students on campus, like me, who do care about everyone’s wellbeing and are here to help; all you have to do is ask. Thank you and goodnight!”
His courage to take a stance against this bully on social media is inspiring. Instead of using profanity to take out his anger on this person, he decided to use his response to inform everyone about his condition, and prevent this misunderstanding from happening in the future. The beauty of social media, other than the irking posts on Yik Yak, is that it can be used in this way as an educational tool to spread empathy towards medical, cultural, spiritual, and many other human conditions. The sad reality, however, is that the world of social media is used for more harm that good. With rare posts like that of my friend, we are only given a small spark of hope that this will ever change.