Are you sick of people’s ‘perfect’ social media lives? We are, too.

The World
A woman looks at her cellphone

Sometimes I can't take your perfect life anymore. Logging into Facebook makes me want to vomit. Your exciting new job, the beautiful kids, the throwback Thursday photos of your beach wedding that I wasn't invited to.

So I go over to Instagram. There it's the sunlight streaming onto your granite countertop where the beautiful cake you baked sits. There are the photographs from your week in the French countryside and the selfies from your Sunday drive in your gleaming new sportscar.

Maybe I'll just do Twitter. Nope. There it's your witty repartee with people I know you barely know, but seem to now be your best friends. You're sharing erudite articles from sophisticated magazines I've never heard of. Oh … and the writeup about your new book, film, or latest talk.

Intellectually I know this isn't really your life. But when it is all we see of one another it is hard to emotionally believe your life is more like mine than your social media feed suggests. And truth be told, my social media feeds might make you think I too lead a charmed life.

The lives we project on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are sanitized, well lit, and edited for impact. Want a glimpse into real life. Try Yik Yak.

Yik Yak, once a supernova in the Internet universe, is Twitter meets Snapchat. It's short, anonymous posts from anyone within a 10-mile radius. They are mostly high school and college kids. And since they are anonymous and they put it out there. Their loneliness, their depression, their feelings of fraud. Whether they are in Prague, L.A. or blocks away from me in Ann Arbor, the posts are similar.

Yik Yak is the id to the superegos on every other social media site. Yik Yak is this place to share the deep dark thoughts of alienation, of frustration, of hate, and of lust. It isn't pretty. Sometimes it's really nasty. But overall it's a relief to see.

This is where you learn about the person mortified that she hadn't shaved for a week and ended up sleeping with someone — "did he notice?" (Yeah, probably, but I bet he didn't care.) It's where you find out that guys on planes really are checking out all us women in yoga pants. "It's ass ass everywhere."

Yik Yak is where you find posts that assure you that your friends aren't the only ones who aren't there when you need them. An anonymous poster puts it this way: "I hate when people say they can hang out, they tell you they're coming over, and then don't answer their phone or texts. Definitely needing better friends."

It is where you're reminded that lots and lots of people are worried they won't amount to anything. The others just want to, um, pleasure themselves.

Lots of responsible adults, the teachers and college administrators of the world, wring their hands over Yik Yak. They are worried about the threats, the abuse, and the violence it gives a voice to. I get that. But perhaps this is the steam valve for modern digital life. We've stylized and curated an unrealistic brand image for ourselves and bought into everyone else's. Yik Yak is the walk on the wild side. It's a place to go when we need to remind ourselves that there are ugly emotions in us all and that life is messy and uncomfortable.

It's actually just a relief to be reminded that there's humor and even poetry to be found in our screw ups, existential angst and misplaced urges. These are the things we can't bring ourselves to share about our lives when our names are attached. Yik Yak makes me wonder if maybe we'd be better off if we did share them more often.

Are you with The World?

The story you just read is available to read for free because thousands of listeners and readers like you generously support our nonprofit newsroom. Every day, the reporters and producers at The World are hard at work bringing you human-centered news from across the globe. But we can’t do it without you: We need your support to ensure we can continue this work for another year.

When you make a gift of $10 or more a month, we’ll invite you to a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of our newsroom to thank you for being with The World.