Among the social media giants that dominate college campuses country-wide — Instagram, Snapchat, and the recent revival of YikYak — a smaller, simpler app has grown in popularity: Sidechat.
Advertised as a forum where one can share memes, jokes, thoughts and confessions with classmates, the app has quickly become a hallmark of Cornell social life. Past the colorful icon — a smiling emoji with a single tear — one can find witty anecdotes and memes in the style that is uniquely characteristic of Generation Z.
All posts — made anonymously and occasionally paired with images — usually are a satire of Cornell Greek life and undergraduate majors. These posts often create relatable anecdotes that rack up hundreds of likes in just a few minutes.
“Oh wow, 51 degrees tomorrow…,” reads one post, “…would be a shame if someone were to…throw a darty….”
The post garnered 30 likes, receiving additional anonymous responses such as “We need to stop freaking out when temp goes above 45 [degrees]” and “roll college ave!”
According to one member of Sidechat’s Cornell marketing team, who wished to remain anonymous, the app was formed by three creators of Snapchat. They work to build specific forums that are exclusive to different colleges and universities, causing every school’s Sidechat’s feed to be different.
The creators are working carefully to facilitate the culture of Sidechat, and seek students from universities to act as ambassadors and consultants for the app, the marketing team member said.
Besides a brief statement, Sidechat declined any official interviews on the workings of the new app.
The marketing team has expanded outreach by connecting directly with students. According to Nick Phoenix Gray ’24, different professional organizations at Cornell received minor cash benefits for each member that downloaded the app, all in an effort to facilitate its spread. Gray’s professional business fraternity, Pi Sigma Epsilon, was one group that benefited from this, as well as other campus social fraternities and sororities.
“After [my fraternity], I started seeing it everywhere. On fliers… at Mann Library [and] on doors. I think it started with the fliers and organizations—like Phi Sigma Epsilon—and then it started to spread through friends,” Gray said.
Students have responded mostly positively to Sidechat and its use.
“I have a good laugh sometimes when I scroll through it. It’s nice seeing what other people say… We don’t all get to talk to each other, so it’s nice hearing other people’s jokes and stuff,” Sophia Marek ’24 said.
Bella Vandenberg ’24 commented on the appeal of Sidechat next to peer apps. “It’s way better than YikYak,” said Vandenberg, comparing Sidechat to a similar app which connects people within 5 miles to each other, also via chat forums.
However, some students worry about the nature of Sidechat’s anonymous system, citing the possibility of cyberbullying. Although Marek noted that people are rarely singled out, many posts are specific to certain majors and organizations, walking the line between witty banter and hurtful comments.
Posts on Sidechat frequently assign stereotypical traits to those in certain majors, in particular the School of Hotel Administration and the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, often belittling these majors as being “easier.”
“I like the anonymity of it…but I feel like, on Sidechat… I wonder if there can be some ethical issues with it?,” Gray said. “It can be taken further…people say things that are not okay… [perhaps] the school [could] get involved.”
As of now, the app continues to grow more popular amongst the student body, providing a humorous insight into the social life at Cornell.