Honesty App, Sarahah, Thank you for your honesty

Well-designed and Simply Saudi - An App that allows people to leave and share 'honest' feedback anonymously.

Honesty App, Sarahah, Thank you for your honesty

Reminding many of AskFM, the latest craze in mobile apps amongst teenagers is an anonymous messaging app called ‘Sarahah’, perhaps a digital version of leaving an anonymously secret folded note on someone’s desk, and writing the message with a different handwriting (for extra anonymity).

Teenagers are attached to their mobile devices and love building their social media profiles. Their profiles represent who they are, who they know and what they like; in the hopes to achieve nothing more than a 'like', comment or other forms of acknowledgment from their peers. Download our free social media e-book.

Each year brings a new wave of mobile applications targeting such age groups in an attempt to make their way to the top of the trending list one click at a time. At the moment, Sarahah is high up on that list.

What is Sarahah?

'Sarahah' is honesty, in Arabic. However, it is honesty which is delivered anonymously. This anonymity is the core purpose of the widely used application.

Who came up with the idea?

Not surprisingly the App is the brainchild of a Saudi Arabian programmer Zain al- AbidinTawfiq who wanted to create a mehtod of providing feedback anonymously. This idea was developed following the setup of a company's website and was used amongst its employees to provide anonymous feedback. Employees were able to provide feedback directly to their managers while remaining unidentified.

Naturally, Zain al-AbidinTawfiq decided to share his concept on a wider, social level, whereby friends can share their thoughts and opinions about someone else anonymously too. Needless to say, once his app was launched in June, teenagers across Australia, America and the U.K were curious to know all about it. And Ireland joined in.

How does the app work?

The overall design is subtle and sleek; no complex logo and detailed graphics. Sarahah is well-designed and easy to use.

When registering, the App asks for the usual personal details such as an email address, password, username and (optional) photo. Once registered you proceed to login using the same email address and password you initially provided.

Once logged in, you will be directed to your profile with your visible username and (optional) photo. Below your username you will have a record of the number of messages you have received, along with a link. That link is the way others will be able to connect with you and leave comments on your profile. This can be shared by simply highlighting, copying and pasting the link on social media. Many teenagers choose to share it on their Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter accounts allowing people to forward their honest thoughts of them, anonymously. Generally users are linking their profile on their profile descriptions, so people will know where to find them in case they want to tell them something, even in hiding.

Needless to say it has gained a reputation - being called a self-esteem machine.

While keeping these attention and approval seeking teenagers in mind, I concluded two troubling features in the app. Firstly, once a message is received, there is no way of finding out who the sender is. You cannot communicate with the sender via direct message as there is no 'reply' option. Secondly, other people wishing to forward a message do not need a Sarahah account; all they need is the link.

Once the link is shared, there's no guarantee of what kind of messages one can receive. Senders can be brutally honest in the kindest and cruellest ways; with the latter causing quite a stir in recent online experiences.

Why is it sparking so much controversy?

Cyber bullying has been in the spotlight over the last decade due to individuals abusing the right to express themselves while affecting others in the process. The Sarahah app has given such individuals a platform in which they can target others by sending any type of message they wish without exposing their identity.

On an international level, concerned parents have reported instances where their child received hurtful and offensive messages which affected their self-esteem. Of course, the obvious solution would be to shut down their account and/ or block offensive senders. However, it is far more challenging to erase the insensitive messages lingering in a teenager's mind.

Hence, Sarahah has been shamed online for giving 'bullies' the freedom to attack others without the fear of getting caught.

What are teenagers sharing on it?

According to one thirteen year old girl, the sense of anonymity linked to the messages is encouraging her peers to speak their mind and pass on rude and mean comments. She spoke about friends of hers who received upsetting comments which targeted her family.

As far as constructive and positive comments go; teenagers reportedly use Sarahah to pass on compliments to others they like and find attractive, the modern version of leaving a secret love note folded up on the desk of the person you're crushing on.

Needless to say receiving such flattery makes teenagers rather curious to know who sent them. Hence they would often try to reveal the sender's identity by taking a screenshot of the message and displaying it on other social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook and simply ask, 'who sent this?

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