Illustration via Max Fleishman

UCLA students under shooting lockdown find rumors and SpongeBob memes on Yik Yak

A murder-suicide on the UCLA campus left many reeling

Feb 29, 2020, 6:01 am*



Amrita Khalid

Peek into a school’s Yik Yak on any given day, and you’ll find the best and worst of humanity on full display. The same can be said about UCLA‘s Yik Yak on Wednesday when reports of two men being shot on school grounds led to the entire campus being on lockdown for hours. UCLA students took to Yik Yak to find solace and relay their gripes and anxieties. 

“I honestly thought I was going to die. Scariest feeling of my life,” wrote one student. 

Amrita Khalid/Yik Yak

As is usually the case when massive tragedies hit social media, the flood of sentiments expressed on the UCLA Yik Yak ranged from chilling to heartwarming to downright trivial. 

Students wrote about exes who came out of hiding just to inquire about their safety. Another student asked if they were wrong for being slightly upset that it took reports of a possible mass shooting for people to actually check-in on them. Raw expressions of fear and anxiety over the day’s events were mixed in with SpongeBob SquarePants memes and complaints over final exams, which are scheduled for this week, not being cancelled. 

Amrita Khalid/Yik Yak

Amrita Khalid/Yik Yak

Students began to blast each other for spreading rumors and misinformation on Yik Yak. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that rumors of multiple shooters and the shooter’s location quickly spread on Wednesday afternoon through group texts and social media blasts. One UCLA student, Christos Kampouridis, had a run-in with a SWAT team near the engineering building and frantically sent group texts to his friends warning them not to go near that location. Kampouridis later said he regretted being so quick to turn to social media before knowing more. 

“It was really stupid in retrospect,” he told the Times.

Amrita Khalid/Yik Yak

Students complained that vague alerts led them to jump to worst-case scenarios, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. 

Amrita Khalid/Yik Yak

Students also speculated on the identity of the UCLA shooter. Responses ranged from serious to snarky to not so well thought out. 

Yik Yak’s reputation as a college rumor mill is well documented. The location-based app allows users to post anonymously, and users can upvote, downvote, or reply to individual Yaks. The app has been under scrutiny with schools finding threats of violence and severe harassment since its viral launch across college campuses in 2013. 

On one Yak thread, speculations ranged from the shooter being an engineering PhD student who didn’t get grant funding to a student with a bad grade. 

Amrita Khalid/Yik Yak

Amrita Khalid/Yik Yak

The Los Angeles Police Department are still investigating the shooting, which was ruled to be a murder-suicide, and still has not disclosed the identity of the shooter. According to CNN, classes at UCLA were cancelled on Wednesday and are expected to resume Thursday. The one exception is UCLA’s School of Engineering, where the shooting occurred. Classes will resume there Monday. 

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*First Published: Jun 1, 2016, 9:42 pm