By Tom Casey
Once an icon in the Old Marketplace, Taco Bell will return to campus in glorious fashion. The popular restaurant chain will replace Holy Habaneros as the primary source of Tex-Mex food in the New Union. Sodexo and Campus Facilities jointly announced the— I’m lying.
According to all available public information, Taco Bell is not coming back to campus. I lied. Here, I have the graces to immediately admit my fib. Over the summer, I perpetrated a lie very similar to the one I just told. This lie, however, continues to fester in my hometown.
> كيف حالك؟ أنا بخير. أستمتع باللعب هنا في كل وقت.
My town’s Yik Yak slipped into a drought when the Pace University student body went home. A few rehashed jokes and calls for companions trickled through the feed. My brother had four more weeks left in high school. He brought news that his grade planned to occupy the newly vacated Yaksphere.
My brother leapt into the galvanized feed. He began posting a serious of cheerful, inspiration sayings after he ran them through the Arabic Google Translate.
> أنا أحب هذا الحي. أريد أن أعيش هنا لبقية حياتي. شعب لطيف يعيش هنا أيضا. اتمنى لك يوم جيد!
The responses were predictably racist. Bomb emojis were common.
My brother kept the act up for a while. His posts formed a character: a Sudanese man moving into Pleasantville with wide eyes and a broken syntax. What caught my attention wasn’t the inevitable “No you cannot blow this up” reply in every thread, but the real life responses Yik Yak users had. In regular, face-to-face conversation, people discussed the mysterious Arabic Yakker. An entrepreneurial friend of my bother plugged the Yaks back into Google Translate, which is akin to making a photocopy of a photocopy. Nevertheless, “Are you? I b Osmta core in here squirt time” didn’t answer many questions regarding the poster’s identity. The teenagers and college students of Pleasantville fully believed in Yik Yak’s content. Students throughout the school thought that an Arabic family was moving in. My brother ceased his charade, concerned further action would prompt the formation of a house warming committee, or a witch-hunt.
I decided to try my hand at a more devious Yik Yak deception. These users, who regularly attempted to depict a suicide bomber with asterisks and tildes, deserved it.
> OMG! Pleasantville is getting a Chipotle
My claim was more outlandish. The post’s information was easily debunked. I expected to spark only a flurry of hopeful comments. I’d enjoy the experience until a noble fact checker cut down the rumor. I was wrong. I barnstormed to 33 upvotes. My post smashed the meager former record holder: a call for cuddles that gathered a pathetic 12 ups.
The comments: Yeeeeeeeesssss, Can’t wait, No one would lie about burritos, right?
The following week, the town’s Pizza Hut shut down. I capitalized on the development.
>> Circle of Life
> Pleasantville loses Pizza Hut but gets a Chipotle!
My brother even joined in.
> أنا حقا تريد أن تأكل البوريتو قريبا.
By mid-July, things started to get hairy. My coworker from a town over casually mused if the new Chipotle would hire her. I asked where she heard about the Chipotle. The Official Chappaqua Moms’ Facebook Page latched onto my lie. Threads about the development were commonplace. My brother’s high school friends planned lunch runs to the restaurant when school resumed. Another individual, either a copycat or severely misguided fellow, began preaching against Chipotle’s arrival on Yik Yak.
> Guys, my dad works at Moes and he says that its definitely coming not Chipotle.
Chipotle loyalists dutifully voted him off.
I resolved to let the lie fizzle out. I would neither continue to purport nor strive to debunk my claim. Three months from the original post, I can say that mostly everything is quiet now.
The Pleasantville/Chipotle incident revealed the power anonymous social media claims have over a ready to believe user base. The arrival of a popular food locale fell directly within a Goldilocks zone of believability. A too outlandish post attracts immediate decriers. I remember a guy in December who posted on Yik Yak three times in ten minutes.
> Woah, did anyone else feel that?
> Whole house shook mustve been an EARTQUAKE
> Everything is broken my sister is crying wow
No one fell for–
> OP, its just your mom getting out of bed. Relax
At the other end, there are lies not substantial enough to bother believing.
> Rave in Cayuga 326.
So let’s try a major social experiment. Just like Pleasantville/Chipotle, Binghamton/Taco Bell are a perfect pair. Taco Bell was here before; no one eats at Holy Habaneros. All it takes is for one post to crack the top of the hot list for an hour. Every pair of eyeballs is a new believer. Try your hand. Write a post announcing your joy, your hopes regarding Taco Bell’s comeback tour. Upvote and comment in support for other posts you see. Together, we can harness the might of anonymous posting to influence a major population. Who knows? Maybe if enough people believe, it’ll come true.