Alright, we need to talk. What about? We need to talk about the latest bright and shiny thing that has taken the internet’s attention by storm, at least for the moment. We need to talk about Sarahah.
What is Sarahah?
Sarahah is the brainchild of Saudi programmer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq. As to the purpose of the app, according to the Sarahah’s official website –
Sarahah helps you in discovering your strengths and areas for improvement by receiving honest feedback from your employees and your friends in a private manner
Basically, you make an account. Post a submission link on your social media profile, and your friends, family, acquaintances and strangers can leave you messages anonymously. What could possibly go wrong with that right?
Chances are, you or some of your friends have posted a status update which looks something like this –
After receiving a message, you can choose to report it as abusive, block the sender, like the message, or share it on social media.
The last of those 4 actions have taken the Indian social media community by storm in the past one week. Almost everyone seems to posting updates like this :
People are inundating their profiles on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram with the “constructive feedback” they’re receiving from their friends.
The ugly side of Sarahah
As with anything that promises to keep people anonymous on the internet, Sarahah has also taken a dark turn. It has become a budding platform for cyberbullying. A number of users who shared their Sarahah submission links to their social media profiles are now complaining of receiving highly inappropriate messages, messages with the purpose of insulting, to threatening, to downright sexually harassing the receiver. Take a look –
Yes, you read that right. Threats of physical violence and homophobia, and this is just the tip of a very dirty, and very offensive iceberg.
The psychology of anonymity and cyberbullying
In order to understand exactly what leads to this ugly phenomenon, we asked some experts what leads to this kind of behaviour from a person.
According to psychologist Reghunath P –
Anonymity almost incentivises a person (read “troll”) by providing them with an added layer of security so that they’re protected from being confronted for expressing their unpopular opinions
He also said –
Similar to Kleptomaniacs who steal just for the thrill off it, and enjoy the consequent rush, a lot of online trolls resort to cyberbullying for the thrill of doing it and getting away with it
Cyberbullying also tends to be far more widespread than traditional bullying. According to a paper titled “Cyberbullying: Hiding behind the screen”, released in Dec, 2014 –
While traditional bullying is generally limited to school and home is a reprieve, victims of cyberbullying can be reached anywhere, anytime, and the potential audience is huge. This is compounded by the fact that there is a lack of supervision
Effects of cyberbullying on mental health
The most worrying aspect of this trend of cyberbullying, which becomes all the more concerning with the virality of Sarahah, is its effect on the victim’s mental health.
According to psychologist Sushma Hebbar –
Cyberbullying has a tremendously detrimental effect on the victim’s self-esteem. It impacts the victim’s behaviour as it makes them more fearful of judgement, and consequently they become more self-conscious about everything from what they say to what they do, and even their body language
According to the paper mentioned earlier, the significant effects that cyberbullying has on a victim’s mental health are –
Increased risk for depression, anxiety and externalized negative behaviours, as well as an increased risk for suicide
In conclusion, while the Sarahah was created with good intentions, it’s important that we use it responsibly, and prevent it from having any negative effects on our mental health.
Are you a victim of cyberbullying, and looking for support, and guidance on how to overcome it? We’re here for you. Talk to an Expert at YourDOST today.