Why would someone willingly want to be bullied?
You may have heard of the latest social app that has dominated the number one spot in Apple’s app store, but what is it really? And why are people so eager to subscribe to its abuse?
It’s called Sarahah and it means “honesty” in Arabic. It was launched in November 2016 and later with a Snapchat update it grew into the little startup that could.
The premise is simple: tell someone something you wouldn’t dare say to their face under the guise of anonymity.
I have to point out though that once you sign up, they ask for an email address and access to your contacts.
The creator, Saudi Arabian developer Zain al-AbidinTawfiq, says he started the app for Arab employees to vent about their bosses in a safe forum. But it has transformed into a lot more than that.
You may have seen people taking screenshots of the anonymous conversations on social media often perplexed or even aggravated at what people are saying to them. This is because you cannot reply to the message you receive in the app...yet.
Once you have created a username and password you can then search for people you want to connect with and "say something constructive (smilie face)" the interface reminds you.
Here's an example of one "constructive" post I found of one person's screenshot "feedback" from the app: "I’m tired of you using your mental illness as a crutch for never ever growing up. You have no manners and mooch off of people and only want to talk about yourself." These are your friends?
Actually, this could be a friend, relative, anyone: all they have to do is type your name in the search bar and if you've used your real name at sign-up, well it shows up in the data base.
Maybe there is some good to the service, and I admittedly have read some very nice correspondence, but people tend to focus on the negative and there is no shortage of that on Sarahah.
The darker side of this app is not very pleasant. I’ve read very hateful, vitriolic and even sexually explicit frankness that feels like rape in syntax.
If you are friends with the person on social media, and they are privy to your life both past and present that's quite an arsenal to a closet troll.
For instance, if you know a person has suffered some sort of sexual abuse, or mental health disorder, under anonymity you can berate, torture or cause real emotional trauma to the person reading the message. Especially if that person, like most people, are truly affected by negativity or prone to depression. What fun!
Given that Twitter and Facebook have policies against bullying, Sarahah seems to have the sole purpose of creating a platform where it's is now just a normal conversation, all in the name of letting "your friends be honest with you."
I can predict a lawsuit in the future of this social app if things get truly out of hand.
In the LGBT community being bullied is a real problem and giving a hateful person a platform to spew epithets is a bit like giving them a free pass for homophobia - hey it's okay, I'm using Sarahah!
Is the world so full of hateful people that they need a way to express it to their friends and family?
And if you think I'm being too hard on the application, it gets a two-star rating in the Apple app store with plenty of reviews that support my claims.
'Y'all gotta see the hate coming when u download this app. Literally anyone can say anything and there is no system that magically filters out the mean comments...On the other hand this is a good IDEA. i've received more compliments than hate but I deleted it bc I knew what would happen."
Here's a positive review from a user who basically says if you're not okay with being bullied then delete it, or don't download it in the first place, "If you're at risk for bullying, here's an idea don't download or make one. I mainly get positive messages but I knew what I was in for going into it. Use your hands people."
Other positive reviews tend to support the above sentiments in so many words.
And what about the kids? Studies have shown that children are one of the biggest users of electronic portable communication devices: laptops, cell phones, tablets.
A 2015 Pew research study shows 89% of teens have a social media account.
Sarahah may now be a “safe” way to bully school kids who are fooled into thinking the technology is fun or humorous and parents may never know.
Truth be told, this may be like any other trend in today's gluttony for the latest thing. But it also says something when that trend is steeped in hatred, so much so that adults need an application to remind a fellow member of humanity how flawed they are.
Being a journalist for many years I have had the sad task of reporting on children, teens and adults who have taken their own lives because of things people say.
Sarahah was developed to help a culture who cannot communicate, not one that already does, explicitly.
How many friends and family have you or someone you know lost on social media or otherwise this past year for posting their opinions in your feed?
Americans have no problems identifying themselves when they have something to say these days, so I am perplexed at how Sarahah is useful for anything but antipathy.
You don't have to be anonymous to say something nice to someone.