Have you heard of Sarahah? It's the newest platform with the old idea that you can submit anonymous constructive messages to friends, coworkers or acquaintances. Sounds super helpful, right? (cue dramatic eye roll)
Before understanding how to handle another anonymous messaging app, it's important to know the specifics about this one. Once you have a registered account with Sarahah, you can share your profile link on Snapchat (thanks to the new update where you can add a link), directly to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, or you can just copy/paste the link and send to friends or post wherever your heart desires. Anyone with this link can share messages to your profile. This includes non-registered users who simply stumbled onto your profile link. The app doesn’t allow users to reply to messages, nor can they see who a message is from, unless the sender includes their name in the message.
I spent a few days on the app to see what they hype was all about and here's what I learned.
As an adult, it's hard for me to find the enjoyment in this recurring style of messaging apps. If you're in a mood to encourage others, why not shoot them a text or say it in person? Maybe, because I tend to have a more confrontational aspect to both conflict and to admiration, the idea of putting my feelings out there isn't as worrisome as it might be for others. Regardless, I still feel that when you choose to speak into someone's life in any way and you do so through an anonymous app, you're robbing yourself from being present for that moment as well as allowing someone else to be present for that moment when they can speak powerful words into your life. Sure, most of the messages I got were a pretty casual version of "you're cool," but of the few that I received that were powerful, it made me pretty sad that I wasn't able to reciprocate that encouragement, give them a hug or even a smile to let them know it meant something. If you are feeling in the mood to tell someone how awesome they are, do it in person. It'll be so much more meaningful for both parties.
It became glaringly obvious who I was regularly talking to about what was going on in my life and who I wasn't. This seems like kind of a simple criticism, but it felt awkward. Some responses addressed struggles I was currently facing, some addressed pastimes and hobbies that I love to take part in when I have free time, others mentioned my love for my church and the youth I work with. Those people were no doubt involved in my life on a deeper level than just watching my story on Instagram every now and then. On the other hand, it was just as obvious when I would receive a message that was pretty off base. Not, malicious in any way, just off. The trouble with this allowed a sort of sounding board for people who think they know you but really don't, and of course all you can do is recognize that whoever sent that obviously isn't someone regularly in your life because you can't actually respond to them. Honestly, I don't really care to sit down and explain myself to each person over coffee (because that's how I do most interactions now). I'm an adult, I'm my own person and confident enough in myself to recognize those couple of messages were clearly from someone who isn't in my close circle of friends. However, there are a lot of people out there, specifically young people currently in middle and high school who aren't able to understand or accept all of that. That's where things get ugly.
As were the anonymous messaging apps of the past, it is a bullying magnet. Sure, I didn't get any nasty, predatory messages, but that's likely because most of my friends are other adults who have better things to do with their time. The biggest factor in why this app is so bothersome is the fact that as long as someone has access to your profile link, they don't have to be a registered user to leave a "constructive" message. That's right, that means that you can't just scan your child's phone, see that the app isn't present and rest easy. The founder of the app claims it as a "self-development tool that allows people to receive constructive feedback" but, in my opinion, mature adults don't hide behind anonymous walls to give feedback. Preteens/teenagers do.
Sarahah currently has around 300 million users and is top of Apple’s download charts in dozens of countries. So, at the moment, there's really no getting away from it. I don't expect it to be around long and predict it will die down just as fast as it exploded in popularity, but before it does, people will undoubtedly have some hurt feelings. The best action you can really take as a parent is to have an open conversation with your child regarding both online safety and the impact that words can have on others. If all else fails, casually ask them about what messages they've received. Nothing says "abandon the app now" like mom or dad being in the know about that social media platform.