I might be jumping the gun here because we haven’t talked about collective action yet, but I wanted to jot down a couple of thoughts that have solidified over the course of the last week.
Yik Yak this week has been ridiculously active with pretty polarizing political statements, many of which were surrounding the recent shutdown of the San Mateo bridge. The hashtag #stanford68, or I guess now #stanford69, was also created in response to this event. Opinions about the protest that shut down the bridge were already pretty split when the event first happened, but a few days ago the student email newsletter The Fountain Hopper (commonly known as FoHo) released new information regarding the shutdown. In particular, FoHo mentioned that there was a 3-year-old girl who had to be transported to the ER for a medical emergency and faces possible brain damage because she was stuck in the car that was stuck on the bridge during the shutdown.
I’m not here to discuss politics (partly because I am also conflicted, but more importantly because this is not what I’m writing about). I was glued to Yik Yak when news about this went out, and was surprised to see how many negative comments there were about the protestors. I tried looking for countering statements, but there were only a couple at best. It really seemed like the Stanford community hated the protests and the Stanford student protestors.
I was reminded of the “vocal minority,” and wonder how that plays a role now in social media. With Yik Yak, it’s so easy to erase someone’s comment – as long as 5 people downvote the statement (and it can be for any reason), it’ll be deleted from the newsfeed. I wonder how public opinion can become biased through outlets like Yik Yak – what if seeing so many criticisms on Yik Yak raise the confidence of those are against the protest, but in reality the majority of the student population is one that is neutral, apathetic, still trying to understand? Or on the other side, what if I am neutral and want to find out more about this issue? If I go onto Yik Yak, I’m going to assume that most of the student population was against this event, which might sway me in that same direction. Yik Yak can definitely be humorous (and I think it should be), but this was the first time I saw how quickly social media shifted focus to bring a specific event to the spotlight. I was always aware that our traditional platforms of media are biased, but I didn’t realize how quickly social media platforms can become as well.