Over the past few days an app has slowly made its way across your social networks - Sarahah. The app was launched by Zain al-Abidib Tawfiq from Saudi Arabia in 2016 and it's been growing in regions like Egypt and the Gulf, according to a BBC report, but now it's becoming a big hit in India. Trending at number one for sometime, it has now reached extremes in the city.
Sarahah, which means ‘honesty’ in Arabic, was on top of Apple App Store in over 30 countries in July. Presently, it has millions of users. “This app will help enhance your areas of strength, strengthen areas for improvement at your workplace and with friends, it will help improve your friendship by discovering your strengths and areas for improvement and let your friends be honest with you,” say the creators.
The app is meant for sending and receiving feedback from others, anonymously. The creators described it by saying: Sarahah helps people self-develop by receiving constructive anonymous feedback.
But, does it really? In the age of growing online harassment, the garb of anonymity gives people the freedom to post threats and lewd messages to anyone. However, this doesn’t stop the city’s Millennials in enjoying the app.
Pratyusha Jonnalagedda, a 23-year-old homeopathy intern says, “It’s fun. There are so many things you want to tell people. But, you hesitate for one or other reason or timing, etc. Through this app, we can share such feelings in a nice way.”
Although, she hasn’t received any hate comments or suggestive messages yet, she recalls her friend’s horrifying experience. “She received a long and physically descriptive comment from a man that was so disgusting. It was scary, too, because we don’t know who sent it and couldn’t believe there was someone who wanted to harm her in that manner,” she shares.
Another youngster, Nivedita Sharma, preparing for her UPSC finds the app fun. “I received witty, funny and some amazing compliments on it. I too passed a few sarcastic and constructive messages to my friends,” says the girl.
“It enables you to know what people think about you and vice-versa without the fear of being pointed out. I commented mischievous stuff and magical things and some fake romantic lines on my friends' profile pretending to be their exes,” laughs M Sowmya, a city-based corporate employee.
“The number of sexually abusive and inappropriate message that women are receiving through the Sarahah app speaks volumes about us as filthy life forms,” laments Oishani Mojumder, Communication student, SN School, UoH.
“Sure, it’s fun but it is by far the scariest anonymous app. It makes it a lot easier for stalkers and bullies to post anything. On most social media websites, there is a ‘handle’, a ‘username’, an ‘email id’ (even though fake) that we can report if harassed, etc. But, here there is no such thing here. Imagine that!” exclaims Dr Jonnalagedda.
According to reports, the developers are looking at ways to improve the experience. Privacy features mean that you can remove your profile from search results, limiting your audience, and you can turn off access for unauthorised users - that is, only people who are logged in will be able to comment.
The rest of the Sarahah experience remains incredibly barebones though. It's got one purpose in mind, and delivers a quick and ready experience on that front. As they say, ‘It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt’. Dissecting the psychological reasons behind the app’s popularity, it feeds on the growing thirst for receiving validation from strangers and friends especially in an age when youngsters are lost about theirs. Perhaps, this is why the app is popular among the young crowd.
Ultimately though, allowing complete anonymous comments, and preventing users from responding to messages means that it's an open invitation for cyber bullying. It's trendy now, but we've seen other secrecy-based platforms buzz up and then fizzle out, too.
“As we know that it is an anonymous messenger app, where you can't even reply, knowing the identity of the person is only imaginary. However, it is dangerous, especially for girls as lot of perverts lurk in our friends list and Sarahah comes as an opportunity for them to put their "feelings" out there,” feels Naveen Kumar P, freelance writer.
“It is like venturing into a river where you see a board that the water is infested with alligators but, you still take a plunge,” he puts it matter-of-factly.