Earlier this semester, a new app was introduced that has stirred up much controversy throughout the past few months on and off campus.
Jodel is a social media app — like the now-shutdown app Yik Yak — where any person can share public posts anonymously within so many miles of his or her phone’s location. At Franciscan University, this has brought crude and insulting language among students and locals. The controversy surrounding Jodel can be better understood by evaluating how Yik Yak first brought controversy.
A notable scandal that derived from Yik Yak was the impeachment of Franciscan University Student Government (FUSG) senator Zacchaeus Lock. Records kept in the FUSG office show that Lock’s impeachment was caused by his uncharitable words on Facebook and Yik Yak. Yik Yak’s role was so important that screenshots of the posts and comments on the app are still kept as part of the record of Lock’s impeachment.
Now, with Jodel introduced toward the beginning of this semester, concerns about the uncharity of old have surfaced yet again. On Jodel, defamatory and hateful sentiments seem to be slung against anyone and everyone.
Most of the insults on Jodel are too vulgar and profane to be reprinted. However, they range from insulting various households — such as Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, Brothers of the Eternal Song, Guardians of the Divine Will, Koinonia, Living Stones, Prodigal Sons Return and Stella Mariae, among others — to insulting and mocking particular people around campus, such as resident assistants and household intents.
However, there is a greater concern than general uncharity. Nicholas Resuta, junior, expressed his distaste for the content on the app. Resuta noticed not just uncharitable or even unchaste comments but comments about same-sex attraction. In regard to his first experience with the app, Resuta noted that the posts “all had the location of ‘here,’ and they all had gay jokes.”
What is readily apparent is the proclaimed brokenness by the users in regard to their sexuality. For example, one post reads: “help. i’m a sex addict at franciscan (sic).” These cries for help become more apparent with the topic of same-sex attraction in posts like “the loneliness of having (same-sex attraction) can be such a heavy cross” and “nobody can help me” and even “I wish I was straight.”
While some of the comments on these posts recommend therapy or Courage — the Catholic Church’s apostolate for those who struggle with same-sex attraction — most commenters joke about the issue or encourage them to live the “gay lifestyle.” The users’ handling of same-sex attraction is intensified by the ability of Jodel to target specific people and accuse them of being “gay.”
In response to the public shaming of people, the administration of Jodel has kicked off and banned many users from the platform, prompted by reports by Jodel users themselves.
Jodel’s method of ousting inappropriate users is the only system in place to keep abuse of the app in check. When the “Jodel” administrators ban a large amount of people at once for breaking the rules, there is a marked silence on the platform followed by blaming and arguments about people “ruining the fun.” The silence that exists after discipline from the administrators of Jodel indicates that the majority of Jodel users — who sustain the conversation — abuse the app.
Especially recently, the content on “Jodel” has been decreasing, and people are becoming averse to its toxicity. For example, Sean Doman, sophomore, explained how “I don’t really use Jodel anymore.” Resuta said that “I felt like there were … a lot of other sites … (that were) more entertaining.”
Regardless of whether or not Jodel disappears like Yik Yak, it is the students of Franciscan University and locals of Steubenville who will determine whether their phones make them mirrors of Christ or mirrors of uncharity.