When I was in junior high, the girls in our grade created a slam book.
In case you haven’t seen Mean Girls (what are you doing with your life if you haven’t?), the slam book was a homemade scrapbook with a page for each student in our grade. As the book got passed around people took turns writing what they really thought of each other on their respective pages. The results were overwhelmingly hateful and almost always negative. That stupid book caused a lot of hurt in our little world because nobody ever completely figured out who wrote what comments.
It was anonymous. Anybody could write whatever they wanted.
What was hurtful in the slam book, circa-2000 is just as hurtful in the Yik Yak app, circa-2014.
Yik Yak is an app where users can “get a live feed of what everyone’s saying around you.” Yik Yak allows users to post and read other users’ comments based on their location…and it’s completely anonymous.
I was talking to some of my students a few days ago and they were all telling me the same story: Yik Yak is out of control in their school. They told me sobering stories of how students at their school, including some of them, were using it to say terrible things about not just students, but faculty and staff.
I was curious to know the depth of the hurt being caused through this app so I asked several of them, “What is the worst thing you’ve read?”
They took turns telling me stories of students writing and commenting on sexually explicit posts directed towards all ages of people, as high-ranking as members of school administration and as young as girls in 7th and 8th grade.
I understand how Yik Yak could be entertaining but it is hard for me to see much good in it.
Before we go any further, let me just caution you to not buy into the lie that this generation is any more sinful or fallen than your generation or mine. I firmly believe that it has never been more difficult to be a teenager than it is today.
To think that there is a golden age of morality to which we should return is to tragically misunderstand the depth and pervasiveness of sin on all people in all times.
What saddens me most about Yik Yak and Snapchat and other apps like them is simple: they operate under the cowardice of perceived anonymity.
Nothing about them is really anonymous, though.
School districts are cracking down on Yik Yak users all over the country. The authorities can track what is written to the corresponding IP address of your phone, tablet, or computer with ease. There is nothing anonymous about it!
The same is true with Snapchat. Just a few weeks ago, over 200,000 Snapchat accounts were hacked and leaked all over the Internet. Read that last sentence again. Not 200,000 pictures. 200,000 PEOPLE. The images of 200,000 Snapchat accounts were leaked, easily several million images. There are hundreds and thousands of websites and Instagram/Twitter accounts dedicated to hacking and leaking “anonymous” snaps.
Snapchat rather famously has an unofficial API, which basically means any 2nd grader with an iPhone can hack into it through a 3rd party app and Snapchat can claim that it’s the 3rd party app’s security problem, not their own.
I don’t care if you can’t spell Yik Yak or have never heard of Snapchat, it matters. It matters because our teenagers have bought into a lie that we have modeled for them, that what they do in private doesn’t matter.
John Wooden once said that the true test of one’s character is what they do when no one is watching.
Maybe it’s not with Snapchat or Yik Yak, but you and I have been guilty of thinking we can speak and act in a certain way in private but then speak and act in a different way in public, or maybe you act differently around some friends than others.
Part of the reason our teenagers feel such great freedom to exploit apps like Snapchat and Yik Yak is they look around and see adults living double lives too.
But here’s the reason this stuff pains my heart so much.
Here’s the reason this applies to all of us, digital natives and digital foreigners alike: God sees everything. Seriously.
God sees everything. I don’t mean that in a “Santa Claus, you better watch out” type of way. But think about it. God, on his throne, reigning and ruling over the world and your heart, who LOVES you, sees everything.
Nothing is anonymous in a world created and sustained by God.
“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:13
“The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.” – Psalm 33:13-15
“For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths.” – Proverbs 5:21