There’s an app called Saraha that’s gotten popular. The premise of it is simple. You set up an account and people leave anonymous comments about you. Some of my friends have gotten in to it but I have no desire to try it. I’ve had enough mean comments made about me on the internet without Saraha’s help.
Some of the comments about me have been made under identified user names, some of them have been made anonymously and some of them have been made by people who aren’t quite as anonymous as they think they are. If you want one example of this, look at the comments sections of some of my blog posts. A few months ago I wrote a blog post about a conflict I had with a former Facebook friend. I called him Dick for the sake of anonymity but he came on my blog under his own name to tell me off and threaten me with legal action. Some friends of his also showed up to defend him.
A few weeks ago someone left nasty comments on my blog under an anonymous user name. The snooty, condescending tone of the comments sounded familiar so I did an IP check. Not only did the IP match up with Dick’s, it also matched up with the IPs of his “friends”. The funniest part is that he talked to his friends as himself and corrected information they gave about him in order to humble brag.
Dick, I know you’re reading this blog post because you’ve made it clear that you just can’t get enough of me. Now that you know I’m on to you, I hope you’ll refrain from further trolling the comments section of my blog. Even if you post from a different computer, your snooty, condescending tone will be a dead give away.
Anyway, now that I’ve said my piece about Dick, back to Saraha. It’s a bad idea because it provides a platform for cyberbullying. When people are given anonymity and thus have no accountability for their words, they feel more comfortable saying things that are cruel, horrible and threatening. As annoying as Facebook’s real name policy can be, the reasoning behind it is sound.
Sarahah responded to criticisms of cyberbullying by saying that it was an app designed for adults that did not belong in the hands of children. Anyone who thinks cyberbullying or bullying in general is limited to children is naïve. Bullying happens all the time among adults and it can be just as bad if not worse than the kind of bullying that happens among children.
The intent of Saraha is to give constructive criticism and some people do use it for that purpose but if you’re going to give criticism that is constructive then it’s best to give it to the person under your own identity. Direct, constructive communication is the basis for a healthy relationship in which both parties are satisfied with each other. If the relationship is a healthy one the person receiving the constructive criticism should be able to listen to and consider it without flipping out on or seeking to punish the person who gave it. I’m thinking that the kind of people who aren’t receptive to constructive criticism given to them directly probably aren’t too receptive to anonymous constructive criticism either.
If what you’re saying to the other person is just mean and not helpful it doesn’t need to be said at all. The whole anonymity thing leaves you guessing about who left the comments. The person who received a mean comment might incorrectly guess that the mean comment was left by a certain person they know and as a result they might treat that person in a hostile manner, which is really unfair to the person who is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Saraha has also been used to leave nice comments. If you have something nice to say to someone then by all means say it directly to the person under your own name. It’s a sad statement on society when we only feel comfortable showing kindness anonymously.
Saraha was originally developed in Saudi Arabia, where direct constructive criticism is just not considered socially acceptable. I’m sorry that things are like that in Saudi Arabia and I’m happy if Saraha has helped them in that regard but please, let’s not encourage this kind of indirect, passive aggressive communication in other cultures. Let’s keep our lines of communication open and direct. Let us be not afraid to give or receive constructive criticism under our own names. Let us be decent and tactful even when we’re criticizing and let us not resort to anonymous nastiness. Let us not hesitate to directly tell people under our own name that we appreciate them and think they’re wonderful.
Although I’ve never used any kind of anonymous comment app, I’ve been the victim of a nastygram through one of those things. When Googling myself I came across a message calling me a troll. The message was accompanied by pictures of trolls. I’ve had people call me a troll directly and that hurt but this anonymous message felt particularly low and immature. It was on an app called Whisper, which I’d never heard of. I Googled it and found that it was intended to combat cyberbullying. So, yeah, an app intended to combat cyberbullying was being used to cyberbully me. I can see Sarahah going in that same direction. I will be staying far, far away from it and I suggest you stay away from it too.