silhouette of a man standing alone.

“Have you been on Yik Yak?”

My graduate student friends can attest to the fact that I ask this question of almost everyone at some point. Sometimes more than once, like when you’re excited about something and can’t help but tell the story over and over again to the same audience. Annoying, I know, and I’m sorry to all my friends.

But it’s just because I find Yik Yak absolutely fascinating. I’m drawn to it because, for at least some users, it serves as a sort of technologically cultivated hive-mind therapy session. For the uninitiated, Yik Yak is an anonymous social media app available on Android or iOS mobile devices. Users can post, vote on, and publicly reply to “yaks.” Users collect “Yakarma” based on how many votes their yaks receive and how often they vote on other yaks. Once a post receives more than five down votes it is removed. Rather than following other users or adding friends, Yik Yak shows posts from others within a ten-mile radius of your location, so when you visit the Yik Yak stream you are seeing the anonymous posts of other users in your area. As such, it is particularly popular among college students—a place to gripe about classes you hate, snoring roommates, bad cafeteria food, and attractive people that won’t give you the time of day. Of course, it’s also a place for inside jokes and celebrating particularly rowdy parties, but to be frank, there’s a lot of complaining. more...



A recent study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking looks at the relationship between Facebook use and perceptions of other’s lives. The authors, sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge from Utah Valley University, find that those with greater involvement in Facebook feel that others have better and happier lives than they do. This is amplified for those who have many Facebook Friends with whom they do not interact outside of the online platform. These findings have been picked up by several mainstream media outlets, and unsurprisingly, are used as evidence of the deleterious impacts of an over-digitized world. An ABC news story, for example, retrieved through Yahoo! News, concludes with the following advice:

 “So if you are looking for a way to cheer yourself up…you may do well to log off Facebook. Call your best friend instead.”

 The comment sections are full of vindicated technological dystopianists extoling the benefits of face-to-face (read: real) over digitally mediated interaction. To keep things consistent, I will share some of the comments from the news story linked above:


Today we have a guest post from Distinguished University Professor and social theorist George Ritzer. This text is only part of the talk Dr. Ritzer will deliver in Las Vegas on Friday, August 19thas part of the Consumer Society Research Network conference [program]. Ritzer’s work on the technologies of consumption is in full force in this essay. The technologies of consumption in the form of ever more spectacular “cathedrals” of consumption are coming to look more and more like “dinosaurs.” This essay to provides an important backdrop of the current economic situation in Las Vegas, one in which Ritzer argues mirrors larger trends in consumerism and globalization.

There is, at least from my point of view, no better place to discuss the crisis and contradictions in consumption in the US, especially in its cathedrals of consumption, than in Las Vegas, the city devoted to, and built on, consumption and defined globally by its iconic cathedrals of consumption; the major casino-hotels on the Strip. It is here that we witnessed what was arguably the greatest consumer-driven expansion in the US in the run up to the Great Recession and, as a result of the latter, perhaps the greatest economic setbacks. Unemployment in Las Vegas rose as high as 15% and is still over 12%. New construction is virtually non-existent. The foreclosure rate, while slightly down from 2009, remains the highest, and by a wide margin, of all the metropolitan areas in the US. Gaming revenue dropped by $2 billion at the depth of the recession and is still down about $1.5 billion from the peak. The largest casino hotel conglomerates- MGM and Caesars- continue to report huge losses largely because of debt incurred during the Great Recession. Mirroring the global economic shift to the Far East, Las Vegas is no longer the gambling capital of the world and has been surpassed by both Macau and Singapore. more...