Georgetown students flock to get on Flok

March 30, 2022

Illustration by Deborah Han

This semester, Flok, an anonymous social media app, has become increasingly popular among Georgetown students who use it to anonymously share aspects of their day, funny jokes, and complaints about life on campus.

The app requires users to input their university email to confirm their student status; however, identities remain anonymous as users create and interact with posts. Popular “floks” get upvoted and can end up on the “Hot” page, which is similar to the features of Yik Yak, another anonymous social media app used by many university students.

The communities on Flok, as opposed to Yik Yak, are based on users’ universities rather than geographic location. This allowed students to continue posting to the Georgetown Flok page even while away over spring break.

While users do not need to post to be allowed to create an account, should they choose to, Flok keeps track of the total number of upvotes earned by that specific user. The number of upvotes determines the type of bird a user is: all users start off as an egg and then level up to hatchling, birdy, and Flok leader at 500 upvotes. The app also gives users a ranking both at Georgetown and in the Flok community at large. 

Flok was originally created by Spencer Rowley, a current senior at Santa Clara University. After seeing success with its launch at his own school, he asked his brother, Alexander Rowley (COL ’25) to help him bring the app to Georgetown’s campus. Rowley currently holds the position of campus marketing director at Georgetown.

“[My brother] has someone he knows at Santa Clara who helps with general marketing. I worked with them to get people on it initially and get content on it,” Rowley said. “One of the big things is you don’t want new users to sign on and see it blank. It was me, my friends, and my dorm that got on very early and posted stuff so that when it rolled out to the bigger campus, it was functional.”

Flok also reached out to the Hilltop Show, a comedy group on campus, to help spread the word, which is how Brady Condon (SFS ’25), a member of the group who reached the number one ranking in total upvotes in February and stayed in that position for about a month, first came across the app. 

“For the Hilltop Show specifically, we made a couple of memes about Flok to advertise it, and we reposted some of the Flok stuff that the Flok Instagram was promoting,” Condon said.

The app is currently available at six schools: Santa Clara, Georgetown, UC Berkeley, Stanford, California Polytechnic State, and Dartmouth. The creator was able to introduce Flok to these other schools using personal connections and reaching out to friends from high school attending those schools. 

Features like its ranking system and anonymity make Flok different from most other social media apps, keeping many students invested. “Something about Flok’s ranking feature incentivizes me to keep posting because I really don’t want to see my rank drop,” Alexa Hill (SFS ’25), who is currently ranked 13th, said. 

As of right now, there are more than 1,000 users at Georgetown alone. Students in all four years are on Flok, but a poll posted on the app revealed that the majority of users are in their first and second years. 

“I think it’s definitely drawn more interest from the freshman class. I feel like it’s at least known about—even if you don’t have the app, you know what it is,” Darya Molotkova (COL ’25) said.

The types of posts seen on Flok vary and include topics ranging from the food at Leo J. O’Donovan dining hall, to polls about the best floor in Lauinger Library, to memes about campus life. Some of the current top posts on the “Hot” page include, “Can we establish a university mandated nap time every day at 4 PM,” and “Summer job culture is toxic af. I just wanna stay at home and play Mario Kart without feeling like I’m jeopardizing my future.” 

“It’s a really great way to reach a large audience without feeling like you’re putting yourself out there,” Hill said.

Students have also used the platform to talk about the university’s new mask-optional policy. Some expressed excitement for March 21, the day the new policy was set in place, while others seemed hesitant about going maskless, especially in large lecture halls.

Users are drawn to the wide variety of content and find the randomness of Flok posts entertaining. While many did not initially download the app with the intention of creating their own content, they find posting to be like letting out a stream of consciousness. 

“It tends to be things that I think apply to a lot of people and things that are frustrating. If I complain about the Harbin fire alarms, I know that a lot of people will probably feel the same way,” Hill said when asked about the inspiration for her posts.

Flok is meant for candid and lighthearted messages that others can relate to, but concerns have arisen about users mentioning Georgetown community members by name, which is strictly against the app’s community guidelines. Certain students’ names have been brought up repeatedly, raising the question of whether users are intentionally putting out hurtful posts to gain more upvotes.

“[Some users are] very willing to just name people. I think it just depends. I personally don’t like calling people by names, and so I think the ability to flag that is a good thing because I know a lot of people just don’t want their name out there like that,” Condon said, referring to the ability for users to “flag” inappropriate or rule-violating posts.

Yik Yak had similar issues, and for many, it became a platform for cyber-bullying and hate speech. The app was shut down for four years before returning in 2021 with the goal of better protecting its users. 

“I think people should make an effort to not state anything that could potentially be triggering to other people,” Molotkova said. 

Flok assigns the role of moderator to those ranked in the top 15 at each school. Moderators have the ability to read through flagged posts and take down those that violate the app’s guidelines, but there is nothing currently stopping the users from making the posts in the first place. The “World” tab is moderated by the creator of the app.

“At a certain point, account bans or mutes might have to happen if it’s a big enough problem or if it’s specific people who are doing it. That’s not a measure we want to take since the whole point is that you can share what you’re thinking,” Rowley said. “The main focus right now is making sure moderation happens faster.”

Flok intends to continue allowing those in the top 15 to be moderators for now but is open to finding new ways to choose moderators, as long as those selected are members of the Georgetown community itself.

“Fundamentally, Georgetown students are far better able to know what is and isn’t acceptable at Georgetown than someone from the outside who doesn’t go here. That is a key part of Flok: the community is the one that is posting and enforcing these standards,” Rowley said.

Flok’s journey does not end here. The Flok team hopes to add new features to the app such as an anonymous leaderboard that would allow users to see their upvote count in relation to others. Its main goal right now, however, is to expand Flok to other schools.

“We’ve had problems, but those will be fixed, and fundamentally, I think this could succeed at most colleges,” Rowley said.

Michelle Serban
Michelle is a sophomore in the SFS majoring in International Economics and minoring in Statistics. She loves jigsaw puzzles, believes that persimmons are the best fruit, and is a big classical music fan.


Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments