In August 2021, “the Yak was back.” Popular anonymous social media platform Yik Yak reappeared in the Apple App Store after being shut down in 2017 due to concerns about cyberbullying and a rapidly declining user base. When Yik Yak returned, college students across the country flocked back to the application, and students at the University of Michigan were no exception.
Compared to other popular social media applications such as Instagram or TikTok, Yik Yak is unique in the way it emphasizes a connection with local communities, only displaying posts within a five-mile radius of the user. Yik Yak’s biggest distinction, however, is that its users remain anonymous. Users can “upvote” or “downvote” anonymous “yaks,” with the most popular content appearing on the “Hot” page. Additionally, in the updated app, posts with five or more downvotes are removed from the platform altogether.
While yaks typically concern a multitude of topics, content posted within the vicinity of the University has focused on the ongoing sorority recruitment process since Jan. 5, the day of potential new member (PNM) orientation. Some of the most popular yaks during the week of Jan. 9 include “this sorority process is very humbling,” and “sororities have hired the FBI to downvote and delete any posts criticizing them.”
Among the numerous sorority recruitment yaks is one recurring name — The PNM Princess. Described by many students as the “Gossip Girl” or “Radio Rebel” of sorority recruitment, The PNM Princess has a Reddit account she has been using to post somewhat confrontational statements about the Michigan sorority recruitment process and her individual desire — or lack thereof — to join each house.
The Princess’s blog-style Reddit posts, entitled “The PNM Diaries,” have quickly dominated the “Hot” page on Yik Yak, prompting anonymous responses such as, “Pnm princess better be typing fast I’m so excited for the (tea),” and “PNM PRINCESS I NEED U TO POST BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP.”
In a Jan. 13 Reddit post ranking the sorority houses at the University, the Princess took a shot at “popular” sororities, claiming she was not sharing her personal opinions of the houses but rather ranking them according to the “values” they displayed in each round of rush thus far.
“I’d like to preface this with a simple warning — this isn’t about *true* rankings,” the Princess wrote. “Obviously despite their racism, homophobia, fatphobia, and other general shittiness, the ‘top’ sororities will remain at the ‘top.’ Funny how the most hated people on campus still maintain their ‘popularity.’ But hey, we’ve all seen Mean Girls; we know how this works.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, the PNM Princess revealed she is a freshman, but does not want her name published at this time. She told The Daily her original goal for “The PNM Diaries” was to have a way to organize her honest thoughts about the rush process.
“Well, to be honest, it kind of was a way for me to write down my thoughts and opinions of each house (and) at first it just sort of helped me sort out my own thoughts,” the Princess said. “And then I (realized) I hear way too much about what the sororities are thinking, but you never hear the other side of the story,” the Princess said. “We never hear what it’s like to be a PNM.”
The Princess said PNMs often feel as though they lack a voice during sorority recruitment because they are under constant pressure to “perform” well for each sorority. The Princess said if she were not anonymous, she would have been dropped from every sorority for publicly sharing her unadulterated thoughts about the different organizations.
“So, really PNMs cannot be honest on a public platform… because every house would instantly drop you,” the Princess said. “I don’t think that I would have been capable of telling my story if it weren’t for being anonymous.”
When asked if she ever plans to reveal her identity, the PNM Princess was doubtful, saying sharing that information would isolate her from whichever sorority she ends up joining.
“This is actually a secret that I don’t really intend on ever telling anybody,” the Princess said. “There are a select few people who I seriously trust to know my true identity and honestly, regardless of how close I will become with my future (sorority) sisters, I doubt I will ever tell anybody else because it’s not worth becoming a social pariah.”
However, many members of “the herd,” as YikYak’s denizens are known, have criticized the Princess’s posts, including “can’t wait for one of the (computer science) majors to leak pnm princess’s IP address,” and “can’t wait to hear the pnm princess after she gets dropped from all the top houses.”
LSA sophomore Alexander Manthous said the focus on sorority recruitment on Yik Yak is unrelatable and tiresome.
“I’ve definitely seen a ton of sorority yik yaks, and honestly those … bore me to death,” Manthous said. “I can’t relate to them. (The posts) talk about specific things and specific sororities and I just feel like I don’t understand what they’re referring to.”
LSA senior Hayley Sanders, the vice president of recruitment at Sigma Delta Tau, said she appreciated the posts from The PNM Princess.
“I was pleasantly surprised with what (The PNM Princess) said about philanthropy and our DEI speech,” Sanders said. “We worked so hard to make sure we were saying exactly what we wanted to say. And we’ve been getting amazing feedback regardless of what the Princess says. So I don’t have any complaints at all.”
Still, Sanders cautioned PNMs to avoid pursuing sororities based on reputation or social rank according to online forums.
“As hard as it is to separate yourself from (what the Princess writes), you will be so much happier when you like being (a member) of a sorority,” Sanders said.
Daily Staff Reporter Carlin Pendell can be reached at email@example.com.