The Yik Yak community at the University of Michigan may have been instrumental in preventing a student suicide this week, and now the school’s is partnering with the anonymous social network to create a more positive online environment on campus.
Over the weekend, a student (presumably – nobody can be 100% certain) posted the following Yak:
“Goodbye, Wolverines. As stupid as it might seem, 4/30 will be my last day of existence. It is much easier to tell this anonymously than to my friends directly. They’ll figure it out later. Thank you.”
At least one student responded to the message on Yik Yak, but to no avail. Word of the troubling message spread quickly, and the school community was equally quick to react.
Since Yik Yak users are anonymous, it was impossible to know which student in a campus of thousands had posted the message. The students, including U-M’s dean of students Laura Blake Jones, tried to help the best way they could. They formed a peaceful gathering as a show of support in the center of campus and posted positive messages to – you guessed – Yik Yak.
It looks like the students got their intended result. A user claiming to be the one who posted the original suicide note sent a message on Yik Yak thanking the group for support, and saying that he/she had decided to choose life.
The message here: Everyone on the community can make a difference. It doesn’t matter if you are a football player, a girl scout or a Yik Yak user. When you see someone that needs help, you are the most important first responder. As more of our time and interactions move online, a different set of responses is called for.
This was a fantastic example of digital citizenship in action. In the words of Nikki Sunstrum, U-M’s director of social media, the school is eager to work with social networks to make campus a better place:
“We [will] stay in contact with Yik Yak and other social media sites just in case anything like this happens. We’re always watching out for the protection of our entire campus community.”
We can all be watching out.
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