Anonymity is a powerful weapon on the Internet. In times where every stray thought can be immortalised online – building a digital image of you – imagine being able to share your darkest ideas with no face attached to be publicly shamed for it. The need for social media validation has led to the creation of yet another platform. And This time, it’s ‘Sarahah’, meaning ‘honesty’ in Arabic.
Sarahah is an online anonymous messaging app that allows users to leave messages on other users’ profiles, without revealing their identity. The app has been garnering a lot of interest and was even the top application on the Apple Store in July.
Everyone wants to hear nice things about themselves. The premise of the app was simple; anyone with a profile has an open inbox and people send you messages. However, there was an additional feature that most people considered a deal breaker – the sender’s identity would remain anonymous. However, an anonymous note proved to be a nightmare for a girl who got a rape threat.
The girl who is a graphic designer posted a screenshot about a Sarahah message she received and it was a rape threat. It read , “I will rape you and you will like it.”
Narrating the whole incident she said,
“It’s scary how people use anonymity to unleash the worst version of themselves. I had received my fair share of ‘criticism’ on this app, and it had mostly stayed in the territory of silly physical taunts, but this was such a rude shock. I’ve been told on Twitter that I should have expected this, joining an anonymous messaging app, but even while trolling someone online there’s a line that you shouldn’t cross. I’ve also been told that this is not a ‘real rape threat’, but the fear and panic I felt was very much real.” “You’re far too sensitive,” some mocked me, “it’s just silly words!” I tried to engage with these people and patiently explain my experience, but their nonchalance is another thing I apparently should have expected.
It took 20 minutes for me to stop crying in panic that afternoon. I was shattered and scared. My mind didn’t stop obsessing over my recent behaviour online. “
She added, “I enjoyed sending my friends anonymous messages on Sarahah so much – writing something with so much love, just to make their day. It’s sad that no one saw that side of this app. Please stop using me as an example of Sarahah gone wrong. I am NOT at fault for having an account on a social media app. The people who use that anonymity to spread hatred are the problem and sometimes they do that without anonymity as well – just take a look at the ‘others’ folder on facebook of any girl on your friend list. Women are bullied and harassed online everywhere”. People are shit. The ones sending the nasty messages are the problem, not the people opening their inboxes. You’re basically victim-blaming when you say it’s our fault for having an account on this site.
Designed by Saudi Arabian developer Zain Alabdin Tawfiq, the social network platform aims to let users send and receive honest feedback. It started as a workplace tool but its purview was expanded after teens started using it. As the app says, “Sarahah helps you in discovering your strengths and areas for improvement by receiving honest feedback from your employees and your friends in a private manner.” In short, no online platform is wrong but proper usage of it, is what actually we should aim for.