For a small group of Florida Tech students this fall, sharing the great outdoors with their peers started atypically: on Yik Yak.
It all began when Noah Keaton, freshman and physics major, shared a photo from his sunrise beach bike ride on the anonymous, location-based mobile app.
“Because I was bored here, I decided to go one time, and I posted pictures of it, and people were like ‘Oh I would have gone with you; you should have told me,’” Keaton said.
Though he didn’t think other students would show up, Keaton waited outside Clemente Center with his bike the next morning.
“No one showed up the first time,” he said. “Because you know, on Yik Yak, people don’t trust other people, or they just don’t follow through.”
But after posting photos of the sunrise from this ride, more users commented, expressing that they’d like to ride with him.
Freshman Andy Griscom said he missed the first group, but still wanted to join in and bike to the beach next time.
“I hadn’t seen the original post,” Griscom said, “but I was like oh, crap, can we do this again?”
Keaton arranged a second ride and the students met outside Clemente Center at 6:30 a.m.
#BikeGroup was born.
“It was us, Xavier and Mario the first time, and we’ve been doing this every Saturday,” Griscom said. “We’ve had people come and go, but it’s usually the same four or five people.”
Griscom said that he’s not a morning person by choice, but having several 8:00 a.m. classes has forced him to adapt.
“It’s nice to get up in the mornings and do something, you’re fired for like the first 10 mins, then the physical activity wakes you up and you feel great. Since PDH doesn’t open until 8:30, we sometimes just sleep on the beach for a little bit.”
The group members have varied, and their biggest group has had eight riders.
“We say hi to each other all the time. I guess you could say I’ve made friends,” Keaton said. “We haven’t hung out too much aside from biking.”
Keaton, a Miami local, said he wasn’t always the kind of person who would arrange such a way to interact with strangers.
“I’ve changed recently to become more social after I spent a year in Spain for an exchange program,” he said. “And there I just had to become more open. So you have to kind of approach people.”
Griscom is the only person who’s been going on rides every single week, Keaton said. He explained that it’s been a unique experience to meet people he otherwise might not have befriended.
But both Keaton and Griscom agree: meeting people via Yik Yak is a risk.
“The thing is, you don’t know who or what they are, so you’re taking a big risk. If you decide to meet someone at the dining hall for a meal, it’s different,” Keaton said. “Nothing bad is going to happen at the dining hall.”
Despite the risk, Griscom said he wasn’t worried since the group meets in the center of campus.
He describes himself as an intermittent Yik Yak user, opening the app occasionally to see what’s going on around campus.
“It’s interesting to see what people are actually thinking, so people say things that they wouldn’t otherwise say, which can be disappointing sometimes to see, but for the most part, it’s not too bad.”
Even with apps like Yik Yak, common courtesy should be observed, Keaton said.
“One thing is, don’t say you’re going to do something if you’re really not gonna do it. That’s for Yik Yakkers. Dedicate to what you say, stick to what you say.”
For all involved, the Bike Group has evolved into an interesting break from otherwise potentially monotonous weekends. “I started biking just to do something,” Keaton said. “Because it can get pretty boring if you’re not doing something.”