top of page

The Fuzziness of Fizz: Is Oberlin’s latest pyramid scheme really worth the download?

by Zach Terrillion

Staff Writer


An epidemic swept campus on the first day of the semester. It wasn’t COVID-19 or RSV, but rather donuts and posters. Almost overnight, a small slip was left outside nearly every dorm room on campus. It advertised an elusive new app dubbed “Fizz.” It is an anonymous chat service billing itself as an alternative to other institutions such as YikYak. Major universities like Rice were already using it. It featured various Oberlin-specific memes. Making fun of Yeobie? Check. Men being roasted? Check. The final bit on the slip is a QR Code. They really wanted our download!

Fizz’s marketing plan did not end with the posters. Many may recall rows of students yielding rows of Dunkin’ Donuts outside dining halls. They were unavoidable. If you downloaded the app, they’d hand you a free pastry. It became a meme for about 12 hours. One friend posted on Discord a meme of Neo dodging bullets in “The Matrix,” except the bullets are “fizz people.” Many at Oberlin consider Fizz to be a pyramid scheme or bizarre social experiment.

I was skeptical of these conspiracies until the night of January 30th. I was walking by Barrows- the dorm which reveals all schemes. I witnessed a group of residents meeting with another person in an SUV. They were loading wagons filled with DOZENS of new donut boxes. There may be something afoot this spring semester. Perhaps this Fizz, this YikYak alternative, is a bizarre scheme.

Illustration by Maia Hadler, Art Director

Fizz is not necessarily a scheme or false document, but a growing service. It was founded in 2020 by two then-Stanford attendees: Teddy Solomon and Ashton Cofer. The two were members of their school’s COVID class, having their entire first-year experience uprooted for Zoom sessions. The duo devised Fizz in response to isolated students on campus, and to create a thriving campus community by way of the web.

To investigate Fizz, I downloaded the app, following the QR Code on the poster. It’s pretty different from YikYak and in some ways for the better. For one, there is more verification, making me register through my phone number and, most importantly, my school email. The only users on Fizz are certified Obies, envisioned by its creators as an “app by college students for college students.” This campus focus could actually work. YikYak often features activity from a mix of students and locals. This is usually fine, but the presence of non-Obie strangers and the app’s anonymity could lead to some sticky situations and dynamics.

The app’s student exclusivity allows more opportunities for community-building. I was fascinated by Fizz’s layout, as it felt much more like Reddit than YikYak. Both of the apps are hell sites, but at least Reddit allows room (to a degree) for genuine human communication and connection. Like Reddit, the new app has like and dislike ratios, dubbed “Fizzies.” Make of this term what you will. You can include edited images on the app, adding extra tools you don’t get with the other guy. There are clubs advertised, polls to vote upon, and even mildly wholesome shoutouts. There is more than one type of post, which creates a space with legit energy. I didn’t feel quite the same pit of despair as when I log on YikYak.

Fizz comes off as more welcoming. It lacks some of the typical harassment, existential dread, and incoherent bot-isms you get on the Y and Y. This is partially due to a legit moderation policy. Fizz’s founders claimed to hire about 15 moderators per school to supplement the usual AI content screening. “They are not supposed to say who they are. Their job is to keep the app going,” according to an anonymous student who worked with Fizz that big marketing day. Harmful, toxic posts can supposedly be removed in minutes. Perhaps this policy is influencing the app’s more friendly tone. However, I will concede that the app, at Oberlin at least, is still in its early phases. Like most things, it could become worse the bigger it gets.

The app is growing nationally, partially thanks to mobilization from within schools like Oberlin. This semester, the thing that seems most afoot is one giant app-growing machine. Fizz is using its lofty funds from investors to recruit student ambassadors to promote the app across campus. In other words, they are the ones who hand out the donuts. At Oberlin, you could earn money for sharing a provided graphic to your Insta story on Jan 30th, as well as for distributing donuts and posters.

According to one such ambassador, their main mission was to get as many people onto Fizz as possible. This person personally learned about Fizz through an upperclassmen, someone known and trusted rather than a sketchy solicitor, and the upperclassmen learned about Fizz through mass advertising on sites like LinkedIn. The ambassadors received their posters and donuts through the PT, a member of Fizz who flew in with the goods. “They facilitated everything,” according to the student. They were instructed by this representative on their shifts and were put to work. At the end of the day, Fizz followed through on their promises of payment, delivered through Venmo. Little bundles from recruiting new ambassadors, putting up posters, donuts, hats, etc. “They kept their word. I was paid immediately.” They also had plenty of donuts to eat after.

YikYak, as popular as it is, is not exactly liked. More people seem to be checking the funniest posts recapped on Instagram than the thing itself. The rude/concerning commentary, the unkempt horniness, and the dead memes aren’t ideal. Still, the forums are often vital to catching the latest discourse on campus. I have been caught in a toxic web of deleting the app in my depression before re-downloading it to get all the hot takes after some major tea goes down.

With Fizz, however, we may no longer need to depend on YikYak and its limited moderation. From my exact 32 minutes of experience with the new app, it shows potential. Each person on the app is verified and ready to engage in some legit discourse in a safer setting that feels more like social media, even if it remains faceless. The circumstances of its growth on campus are sketchy. When asked whether they believe Fizz is a pyramid scheme, the ambassador said, “I see how it can seem suspicious. Our promotion was one day only and then we were gone.” However, they personally didn’t get this impression. The PT had apparently been a college student who promoted Fizz on their campus. They dropped out of school after being hired by Fizz to promote their software across the country, including here in Ohio. There are human faces behind these operations, as insane as they sound.

Fizz, in all its fuzziness, may fulfill the promises of its many, many, many ads. It may be a scheme, but it could also be a scheme for the greater good. Compared to YikYak, “Fizz seems a bit more calmer than that. There’s more Oberlin jokes and Oberlin content. I can relate more to that stuff.”

bottom of page