Sarahah user? You may have low self-esteem and risk emotional abuse

The website states that Sarahah is to help “improve friendship by discovering strengths and areas of improvement” using constructive criticism.

Published: 21st August 2017 03:27 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd August 2017 10:35 AM   |  A+A-

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Express News Service

Sarahah is taking social media by storm so it wouldn't be a surprise if you see turquoise notes popping on your timeline of messages to friends through the mobile application. Interestingly, Sarahah means 'honesty' in Arabic but the mobile app is working in more ways than we understand. The anonymous messaging app first started out as a website in early February before it was converted to a mobile application in June by the Saudi app developer ZainAlabdin Tawfiq. It went on to become the most downloaded app on Google Play Store, according to a report in DailyO.

The whole craze behind the application is simply because of the anonymity of messages received and the quest to find out the identity of the sender. Surprisingly, the website states that Sarahah is to help “improve friendship by discovering strengths and areas of improvement” using constructive criticism. However, while many users are receiving compliments about their looks as well as about their personality, there are also many that have received insults and hate messages in the name of anonymity, thus affecting their psyche.

Pune-based Clinical Psychologist Janhavi Melinkeri shedding light on the craze highlighted that there may be a deeper issue that we're dealing with. Janhavi said, “Most of the users using the application may be suffering from low self-esteem and are probably looking for validation through positive comments. However, there could be a huge problem if there are negative comments because they might not take them without reacting with drastic measures like self-harm.”

While Sarahah has only become popular now, a few months ago a site called working on a similar principle was used by many teenagers but the former seems to have also spilled into the lives of busy youth and adults because of the virality. The workings of Sarahah have now raised concerns of cyber-bullying because the bullies armed with crass language are now guarded by the comfort of their bright computer screens in their anonymity.

Cyber-bullying has increased to a great extent in the last few months on social media thus raising a pertinent question about the safety of individuals particularly using Sarahah among other social media applications.“Sarahah definitely gives cyber-bullies a platform to passive-aggressive and harass people as they cannot be identified and with bullying on social media on the rise, it is definitely dangerous if not received well by the user, especially teenagers”, adds Melinkeri.

As if already expected, the negative comments on the application have taken a turn for the worse as there are many instances coming to light of the desire to rape, body-shaming and even a go at demeaning a particular person. The not-so-surprising part is that most of the comments are sent to girls who have by now gone used to the harassment but the lurking issue cannot be ignored. “I got a comment saying I wasn't worth the attention I was getting and that I am an attention seeker and just a 'sappa figure' (someone who looks okay),” said one girl who did not wish to be named. She went on to add that the comment, however, did not affect her as she was only interested in the good comments.

Another girl who wished to remain anonymous said, “I got one comment saying that the sender gets horny (aroused) every time they (the sender) see me.” However, she also didn't take it too seriously as she thought somebody must be playing a prank on her to get a reaction which obviously she didn't give in to.

In a recent case of cyber-bullying, last month, journalist Dhanya Rajendran was at the receiving end of bullies who attacked her on Twitter for an opinion she had; it was about Tamil actor Vijay's movie Sura which she compared to Jab Harry Met Sejal. What followed was a gruelling ordeal from fans with the hashtag #PublicityBeepDhanya which didn't take long to go overboard resulting in the journalist eventually filing a FIR against the bullies, to teach them a lesson.

This, however, highlights the increasing concern about the freedom that social media gives to bullies to get away anonymously even after they have insulted people. There isn't much that has been done about it and we won't know till the matter has gone out-of-hand. Talking about security for users who get easily affected, Janhavi says, “It can definitely work as a constructive app but the app makers need to design a way to beat the harassment especially after they have seen the extent to which messages received can go to so that it does not lead to the user becoming the victim of something that can't be controlled.”

Interestingly, Sarahah has a plan but only it's a little too weak for the offenders. In its Terms and Conditions, there are just one-liners which don't explain much about the post-abusive message action. However. Taufiq, the Saudi Arabia-based app developer in an interview with IndiaToday said that Sarahah would reveal the identity when the message is reported on the application after which the receiver can take strict action.

As of now, there are no cases that have been reported. However, with the kind of messages circulating the internet, it won't be long before we get to see if Sarahah can actually combat cyber-bullying.


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