Profundity is not the social zeitgeist’s strongest suit. Yik Yak, an app that thrives on anonymous inanity and might offer the purest public expression of id so far imaginable, makes that point with almost no effort. Yik Yak is the home of the sexually frustrated, the sexually superior, the sad and lonely, the ecstatic, the racist, and mostly the Netflix-addled masses, each telling everyone and no one, with almost no care for articulation, what they think, or are doing, or aren’t doing. Almost nothing of substance wallows in the Yik Yak universe. It’s intensely popular on university campuses teeming with distracted students. Somehow, Fort McMurray offers an exception to the madness.
Fort Mac’s yakkers tend to stick to the things that matter to their basest instincts. They blurt out musings about drugs, strippers, bars, sex and, of course, their utter dependence on Netflix. Some, however, are preoccupied with jobs, and they offer a glimpse into the town’s current dalliance with economic misfortune. “Why are so many people looking for jobs elsewhere all of a sudden,” asks someone, perhaps rhetorically, without the benefit of punctuation. “Just got laid of [sic] today,” wrote another. “After working with Suncor for 5 years they let me go. All I can say is f–k them.” A third, nearly a week ago, sensed the future and got packing. “Glad I’m getting out of this town before oil goes to s–t and everyone here loses their job.” A few others defy the sense of despair so pervasive among Yik Yak devotees. “The price of oil always goes back up,” said one, in reply to the bag-packer. “Happened before should be fine,” offered another.
The yakkers of Fort Mac could not be further from the politics that consumes the House of Commons this afternoon. But they’re talking about the same thing as the politicians who now resume their positions in Ottawa: oil’s effect on a town and, by extension, a province and country’s economic future. Even a small corner of the app that mostly comprises horny university students who forgot to study because they’re too drunk is talking about oil. Truly, a national conversation is born.