Sarahah: A New Platform for Cyberbullying?

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Written by Ivey Milam

 

 

 

If you ask people on campus if they have heard of the app Sarahah, they will most likely say yes. Considering that this new social networking app has gained millions of users since its release on June 13, 2017, the app’s popularity isn’t surprising. 

After only two months since its debut, the app managed to get over 10 million downloads according to India Today magazine, and that number is increasing. This surge in popularity is partly due to Sarahah’s influence on sharing constructive criticism: it makes the process quick and easy. However, many parents and teachers have voiced their wariness about the app and it’s potential to be a space for cyberbullying. 

The process of signing up for Sarahah is simple: you create an account, share your ID with friends on sites like Facebook and Twitter, and wait for messages. Once you’ve received messages, a number will appear in the chat bubble in the lower left corner of your screen. When you access this chat bubble, you can view the comments people have left and “save them as photos, block the person who sent [them], flag them,, or delete them,” said Columbus State University Sophomore Cole Kiker.

The app’s developer, Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, explained that the app is for “discovering your strengths and areas for improvement by receiving honest feedback from your employees and your friends in a private manner.” Even the title is the Arabic word for “honesty,” so users should expect a variety of candid messages to fill their inbox. 

In regards to the app’s promise of privacy, each user is granted anonymity and is able to send a message to fellow users after clicking on the link of that person’s account. The comment can be anything – praise, a token of admiration, a suggestion for improvement, or a put-down – but the receiver won’t be able to reply. This feature has attracted disapproval because people are not able to contact those that inspire them; nor are they able to contact and confront those who leave off-putting remarks. “It was a little annoying not knowing who it was, but I usually figured it out,” said CSU freshman Deirdre Eddy. 

Although adults comprise the majority of people concerned about the app’s effects on users, younger people have also acknowledged that there are detriments to it. Students have observed that Sarahah can attract spiteful people, as CSU junior Marcia Harper noted, “I had a great experience, but I can see the potential dangers, especially in the way of bullying.” Whether it be a friend, a family member ,or you, each user faces the possibility that an old bully, or a new one, might contact them. 

Bullies and trolls are common in any social media site, and Sarahah is no exception. According to India Today magazine, one reviewer on Google Play claimed that her 13-year-old sister used the app and “got a death threat aimed at [their] 2-year-old brother.” This is an example of Sarahah’s darker side. Even Tawfiq himself has addressed this issue by assuming users that “if a sender violates the rules and regulations of the app, or some other similar incident, [he] may be forced to reveal the details of the sender.” 

As for messages that may lower someone’s self esteem be emotionally adverse, it is crucial to realize that you might be inviting criticism by signing up for Sarahah. If you are sensitive to such messages, it is best to steer clear of the app. For those willing to take a risk, there is also a portion of users who use the app to spread positive feedback. Megan Farokhmanesh said that she “was surprised by how overwhelmingly positive the comments [she] received were” and that the anonymity factor increases people’s confidence so that they leave more positive messages.  

Overall, while some agree that Sarahah is not an ideal app for someone with low self esteem. others don’t think it’s a complete breeding place for bullies and victims. There are countless users who attest to harmless – and even positive – experiences.

“I never received any negative messages. They’ve all been pretty positive,” said Kiker. “One person opened up by saying they had a crush on me throughout most of high school. Other than that, no one ever said anything terrible about me.”

As for the future of Sarahah, some speculate it will soon fade from memory. But for now, the app will attract as much attention as it can before being forgotten.