MASKED: The virtual world often gives us a chance to be whoever it is that we seek to be. You can have hundreds of friends on Facebook, be bold and brash via a keyboard, and use Photoshop or some of the free apps available to ‘correct’ your skin, figure, or even the length of your legs! Sarahah is the latest hit in this virtual world where people can share their darkest thoughts anonymously
The latest fad in the virtual world highlights the dark side of anonymous messaging apps. Sarahah means ‘honesty’ in Arabic, but the anonymity allows people to give in to their worst instincts
By GO Staff
OSCAR Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. Research shows 87 per cent of kids have witnessed cyberbullying. And, now, there is a wildly popular new app called Sarahah which kids are using to bully one another.
Sadly, the old maxim “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you,” has been proven false, as many victims of cyberbullying have turned to self-harm, substance abuse and tragically, even suicide.
Sarahah originally started as a workplace tool. Employees can give anonymous feedback to their employers, as well as to their co-workers. It was created by Saudi programmer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq. The name of the app is derived from the Arabic word for frankness or honesty.
Sarahah’s popularity launched its download numbers past YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. And, adults don’t have exclusive rights to the app. Kids can easily create profiles on Sarahah and then use the app as a way to taunt their peers anonymously. Furthermore, the app connects to Snapchat, meaning that the bullying can extend to another massive platform. Snapchat has been called a Sarahah distribution platform, as reporter Madison Malone Kircher of NY MAG explains:
Kids will embed their Sarahah link into a snap in their Snap Story — in layman’s terms, they’ll post the link where all their Snapchat followers can access it — where friends, or anybody if their account is public, can click it and anonymously comment.
While the app promises to help users ”self-develop by receiving constructive anonymous feedback,” the reality is that many kids (and adults) use the app to send nothing but negativity.
So far, Sarahah feedback comments show a fair share of criticism, with users saying that people have sent them misogynist and racist messages. Parents and school officials are particularly alarmed by the sexual content, which can include rape threats and other graphic messages.
So what should parents do to protect their kids? (Besides build a time machine and take us back to an era before smartphones?)
Working Mother advises parents to go into their child’s phone and change the privacy settings on the app.
If you go to the settings, you can turn off the “appear in search” and “receive messages from non-registered users” options. This will help to keep your kid a bit safer as random people won’t be able to search and find them.
Also, if your child is receiving nasty messages from a user, you can contact Sarahah with the evidence and have that person blocked. (Although, to be frank, it won’t be too hard for that person to simply create another profile).
What do you think? Would you let your kid use Sarahah?
IN THIS world of online trolls, it was only a matter of time until ‘anonymous messages’ weren’t fun anymore. A girl posted this screenshot on Twitter about a Sarahah message she received.
“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. I’m horrified. And I’d like people to not tell me it was my fault for downloading an app,” she adds. Disturbing? Yes. “To the person who sent me a rape threat on Sarahah: Thank you for making me shake in my chair and worry for my safety,” she wrote.
Many other users have used Twitter and Facebook to share and reply to various negative messages they received, which range from a brief “I hate you” to criticism about behaviour, and include lewd comments about their bodies.
Google play reviews also paint a sorry picture of the world. A furious reviewer whose child passed away reported receiving a message saying “there’s a special place in hell for baby killers”.
Another reviewer on Google Play wrote a review with what may turn out to be the safest solution if the app is to survive long-term, “My 13-year-old sister uses this and she got a death threat aimed at our 2-year-old brother. I feel like this app would be okay if used for its intended purposes. Since there are people who use it as a social app I think they should update their terms so that if there are people who use it to threaten others they can be located and dealt with.”