I’ve recently been reading about a new anonymous messaging app called “Sarahah” that has received a lot of attention lately. The app’s popularity seems to revolve around the liberating ability for users to say whatever they're thinking to anyone with a profile without those comments being attributed to the author--all without consequences!
The Social Consequences of this App
With the growing presence of the Internet and social media in the lives of young people, I have noticed a lack of in-person social skills amongst my peers (college students) and high school students. I wouldn’t go so far to say that we face significant issues with face-to-face socialization, which is what I often hear when older generations characterize my own, but I do feel that many my age find it difficult to connect without the use of social media, or to even speak in a straightforward way. Perhaps this is why the majority of users on Sarahah tend to be teenagers.
Personally, I feel that the presence and use of anonymous communication apps is detrimental to social growth, and to the perception of the self. I understand the thrill of being able to express oneself without guilt, but there are other ways to do so properly without having to hide behind a screen. Additionally, the reason one might feel they can’t say something to someone’s face is for good reason--maybe because it could harm the other person, or lead to other unwanted consequences.
Facilitating anonymity seems like trouble to me. If the intent isn't to cyberbully, but rather to say
something nice, then perhaps it is important to ask yourself: “Why do I feel like I can’t say this to the person's face?” Most of the time, the answer has to do with feeling self-conscious or fearing rejection.
But instead of giving in to that fear, or whatever it may be, that keeps us from speaking our minds, maybe we should start fighting it. The answer to that previous question should ideally change to: “I can tell them what I think, because who really cares how they respond. At least I’m telling them how I feel.”
If the intention is to harm the other person, then maybe the fear in telling them to their face is rightfully there. It should serve as a reminder to think about how what you say might affect others before you speak. In any case, “Sarahah” and other anonymous apps banish some of the most important steps in human communication--thinking before you speak, owning what you say and how you feel, and gaining social confidence through the process.
False Tools for Self-Esteem
Anonymous messaging apps can also serve as false tools for self esteem and self perception in general. Based on my own musings and personal experiences, the following process can occur. Younger users of Sarahah might begin to depend on the messages they receive as definitions of themselves, which is a process that can occur subconsciously with growing use of the app.
It is also likely that those who use the app may be seeking validation. High schooler's tend to value compliments that are more or less "surface-level" (style of dress, physical appearance, social standing, etc.).
that appear on their profiles. This, in turn, can create impossible standards rooted in values that are shallow and vain, especially if those users have lower self-confidence/self-awareness to start out with. Such a process can create an even more self-conscious individual and can actually feed insecurities rather than eliminate them in the long run.
My Two Cents on Sarahah
In all, Sarahah, if anything, is merely a tool. If it is used in a healthy and safe way--like it was originally intended to be used--then it can prove to be very beneficial. However, if it is used incorrectly, it can become a weapon. But that goes to say for anything, really. It’s up to the user to decide--if the user is a teen, however, it is less likely that they will be apt to productively and beneficially use Sarahah.
Anna Dieckmeyer is freshman at Saddleback College in Orange County, CA, majoring in English. Meanwhile she writes for the Cyberwise Blog and others about the subtleties of online life and other perplexing issues. She hopes to pursue her interests in psychology and writing.