In the beginning of December, a video of a possible sexual assault was uploaded to a social media site called Yeti – Campus Stories.
The video, uploaded to Florida A&M’s Yeti feed, appears to show a man facing away from the camera, possibly sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman, The New York Daily News reported.
It’s not clear if the individuals in the video were affiliated with Florida A&M, and Tallahassee, Florida police have been investigating the incident.
But the video highlights a criticism of Yeti — that students unabashedly post details of their arguably inappropriate or destructive behaviour to the app. (Yeti’s primary concern is its users safety, and it cooperated with police during the Florida investigation, Ben Kaplan, the app’s director of communications, told Business Insider.)
If Snapchat is “all about expressing yourself in the moment,” as CEO Evan Spiegel has described it, then Yeti-Campus Stories is its more provocative counterpart that often involves sharing sexual exploits.
Yeti launched in March and operates similarly to Snapchat, allowing users to take photos and videos — also called yeets — and share them among their college communities.
Unlike Snapchat, which is approved for children 12 and older and removes content that violates its terms and conditions, Yeti requires that its users are 17 or older. Yeti appears to allow greater liberties for what its users may share, though users must be near one of the affiliated college campus networks to upload photos or videos to that feed.
On Yeti, students post photos and videos of themselves in compromising positions, such as pre- or post-smash (which are terms they use to reference sex), engaging in drug usage, and posing with guns. Business Insider reviewed the site, and it appears that 30%-40% of content on Yeti is sexual in nature or related to drug or gun usage.
And its popularity is surging. It has hundreds of thousands of daily active users and adds over 10,000 new users a day, Julie Bort reported for Business Insider.
Yeti enlists the help of campus moderators to help check for inappropriate content on the app, though it does not formally employ them.
“If you click on Snapchat, you’ll see it’s the complete opposite to what Yeti is,” Jamal Hafiz, a moderator on Yeti’s University of Florida network, told The BBC.
“You see people eating lunch, or doing something fun. You won’t see drugs or nudity on Snapchat. It’s completely day and night compared to Yeti.”
Criticism of Yeti also pertains to the images that appear to be uploaded without the knowledge or consent of individuals in the photos.
“What bothered me the most were the pictures guys had taken of girls without their knowledge, faces included, with the caption, ‘Pre smash’ or ‘Post smash,'” Catherine Gregg, a senior at Florida State University, wrote on Her Campus.
“I even witnessed a photo captioned, ‘Mid smash,’ documenting private acts inside the bedroom that I had no right to be peeking in on,” she wrote. “Some honorary d******* made the executive decision to invite thousands of other students into the bedroom to watch him and his partner having sex and I can bet you it was posted without her consent.”
Kaplan attributes the existence of sexually suggestive photos to the number of users on the app. “Yeti is used by millions of college students across the country to communicate openly and freely,” he explained.
“As with all visual media, including Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter, this contains NSFW content on occasion. The safety of our users is our primary concern, and we continue to build new and effective tools to contain the proliferation and impact of NSFW content within our communities.”
Yeti’s popularity poses questions about the implications of social media permeating every aspect of college students’ lives.
Snapchat lets people take shots of benign moments, like standing in line at the grocery store. And it’s becoming more and more popular as a mode of communication between people.
The images on Yeti push the envelope even further, depicting individuals participating in potentially illegal behaviour.
One Yeti post that Business Insider came across featured a male student who was snorting what appeared to be cocaine off of a female’s nearly naked body. The student’s face was not covered.
Other images, while not illegal, are highly sexual in nature and might hurt students’ reputations in the future.
Drug usage and sex are certainly not new phenomena for college-aged adults, but the desire to share these images may be becoming more prevalent.
“Social media may elicit a kind of competitive or ‘one-upping’ culture that fuels peer competition around who is the most daring or carefree,” according to Dara Greenwood, Ph.D., a social psychologist and a professor at Vassar College.
Greenwood explained that while Yeti is new to her, it seems to be another example of students wanting to see and be seen.
“College students may want to push the envelope in ways that seem counterintuitive, as they attempt to both fit in and stand out from their peer groups,” she said.
Students may also be lured into a false sense of anonymity, as they aren’t directly communicating with the people they share their images with.
Greenwood cautions that social media use among college students can also become a form of peer pressure, enticing students to participate in behaviour they might not otherwise.
“I noticed that the site allows for view counts and likes,” she said. “I think this stands to encourage various forms of edgy or self-destructive behaviour because it is still tied quite explicitly to peer approval and admiration. And, if a student is already feeling vulnerable or confused or is already at risk for various forms of unhealthy or unsafe behaviour, this kind of site may well increase those risks or vulnerabilities.”
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