New Year, New Fads
It is a truth universally acknowledged that with each New Year, come new fads. Every new fad in turn brings with it, its own share of controversy. Sarahah is no exception. For the uniformed, Sarahah is an anonymous messenger app that has garnered a lot of attention online because it is an anonymous messenger. So all those years you spent pining over your crush, you can now finally tell them, anonymously. Rather than you know, actually talking to them.
What really brought Sarahah to centre-stage was that it gave the internet a chance to indulge in its basest musings; tearing people down. Thus, social media was flooded with screen-shots of messages, which ranged from mean to just plain hurtful. Seeing these messages and their posters being surprised by what was said about them, because they just were not that mean or how could someone say such a thing, other people (such as myself) got curious. That curiosity is precisely what has been fuelling this trend.
That curiosity is also what compelled me to write this article. I wanted to see if it was just people believing they can say whatever they fancy without the fear of consequence. Or, was there a deeper reason as to why people were receiving such hurtful, and in some cases sleazy, messages? Just as swiftly as my curiosity was peaked, I had made an account and posted the link to my Facebook. After all, it was the opinions of those 600 or so people that I was really curious about.
Getting on the Sarahah Bandwagon
Once I posted the link, the trend picked up traction in the virtual world of my friend’s list. Up until a month ago, only one person had an account. Now suddenly, everyone did and I felt like such a trendsetter. Following that, I couldn’t help but notice that my responses (save for one very sexual one) were all together very tame, in comparison to those of my friends. I did get more responses than I was expecting though. It’s a reassuring thought that there are at least 17 people who care enough about me, to message me anonymously.
Not all of those 17 messages were really anything to write home (or an article) about. Much to my dismay. There were a couple of standouts though. Both started with a ‘tbh’ (to be honest). Both contained recollections of what they thought of me before I befriended their respective senders. And both ended on a heart-warming note, saying they were glad to have me as a friend. I instantly loved those.
The rest were all generally light-hearted. A few were friends playing around, while a couple expressed disappointment that we don’t talk anymore (okay I must admit, that was cheesy, even for me). Apart from the aforementioned sexual one, which I honestly believe was a joke, there was nothing too explicit, mean, demeaning or frankly hurtful.
In contrast, the messages some of my friends have gotten were more in line with what this app was notorious for. One person posted that they hated the app. Their reason was that they always tend to speak their mind, and many people do not like them for that. Several of my female friends got messages from people who I can only describe as ‘Roadside Romeos’. These ranged from desperate to stan-level creepy. One, which stood out, told of how they’ve wanted to write but never found the elusive words until now. They went on to ask who is to blame for their obsession with the person they’ve messaged. Was it God, for making the unsuspecting object of their affection so beautiful? Or the unsuspecting crushee for being herself? Because tu haan kar ya na kar, tu hai meri Kiran.
One person was even called out for being two-faced. That message began by stating that they once thought of the recipient as a friend until the recipient’s supposed true colours were revealed. It then stated that it’s no surprise the recipient has so many people talking behind their back. This was definitely the most spiteful message I have seen on Sarahah. And it does seem to validate the plethora of negative reviews on the App Store.
These reviews warn us, that Sarahah provides a platform for people to anonymously attack us using our vulnerabilities as ammunition. For example, several told of how their appearances or those of their friends were ridiculed to the extreme. Others lamented that the app was fuelling teenage depression, as many are being told by their peers to ‘go die’. It should be noted though, that the app is rated 17+ on the App Store, indicating it’s not intended for people under that age. Make of that what you will.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
As should be obvious by now, my personal experience with this app somewhat contradicts the consensus. I didn’t receive anything that I would classify as negative or hurtful. Nor was I objectified or called out. That doesn’t change the fact that other people were. This leads me to believe that your experience on Sarahah is subjective to your own personal environment.
To be clear, I’m not saying that what we’ve gotten is our fault nor did we ask for the negativity. I am saying however that the kind of people we chose to surround ourselves with, the general age of those people and to some extent, how you treat the people around you and how they perceive you, does have a bearing on the kind of responses you receive. I mentioned earlier, this app appeals to the basest instincts of the Internet. The general belief that online, people are free to do whatever, without the fear of consequence. In a time where consequences of what’s said in the internet do indeed materialise, anonymity does provide cover for the internet like a bridge for trolls. Even if they don’t materialise, a large portion of society does exist to ensure consequences are dealt out. App reviewers and the people behind the ‘Sarahah revealing names of anonymous senders’ hoax can be considered examples.
That being said, while trolls on public forums exist for various reasons, on our private lists, they exist because we let them. Once again, while I’m not placing blame, Sarahah is a cautionary tale. But not for the failings of this app, rather for the internet and society as a whole.
A real person sent each message that was sent on the app, and they sent it for a reason. What that reason is, only they know for certain. Whether it’s jealousy, repressed hatred or longing. These messages, while they won’t always be a reflection of who you are as a person, do reflect the society’s fear of being judged and its hypocritical insistence to judge others. Why else would people chose to remain anonymous while sending such hate?
The simplest way I can put this is ‘Don’t shoot the messenger.’