If you’re on Facebook, you’d have noticed people posting photos of a blue speech bubble, with anonymous messages that is all over your social media feed.
You are witnessing the rise of Sarahah, an app and website which allows users to send and receive anonymous messages and post them on social media. The messages generally range from compliments, romantic confessions, and even negative feedback for the person. However, the recipient can choose which messages to share on social media.
How Sarahah started
Sarahah, which translates to ‘honesty’ in Arabic, was developed by Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, a Saudi programmer. The website opened to the public in November 2016 and was initially meant for employees to give feedback to their employers. The anonymity was supposed to address the fear of retribution from the employers for negative feedback, reported Nicole Lee for Engadget.
The website was a big hit in countries like Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt, prompting Tawfiq to design an app for Sarahah, which launched in June this year. This was also the first time it was available in English. The app was a huge hit in the Middle East, including countries like Syria and Egypt, reported Nada Rashwan for BBC.
And now, it’s here in India and people just cannot seem to get enough.
How it works
The idea behind the Sarahah is simple. You only need an email id to register on the app or website and it gives you a profile, which you can share on social media. Anyone can visit the profile using that link and leave anonymous messages. For those who are logged in, there is an option to tag themselves when they leave a message, but the default setting is set to anonymous.
Recipients can see the messages in an inbox, delete, flag and favourite them. If they wish to share it on social media, they can do so by simply clicking on the share button.
The app has become quite popular. It has been installed over 50 lakh times according to Google Play Store, even though its rating is a mediocre three stars. However, it appears that the rating is mostly because of bugs in the app, one of the most persistent ones being that the app keeps signing users out.
Christine Garcia, an associate and clinical director at the Young Adult and Family Center (YAFC) at the University of California, San Francisco, department of psychiatry told Engadget that the anonymity it provides is a big factor which led to its popularity.
The anonymity provides a level of privacy which its users may not find on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on. “Teens want to connect [...] but anonymous apps allow them to be connected and somewhat disconnected (because no one knows who they are) at the same time," Garcia said.
While social media users seem to be enjoying receiving anonymous compliments on the platform, many have also criticised it for being a potential ground for cyber bullying. It is known that trolls and bullies often hide behind anonymous identities online, and Sarahah hands this option to them on a platter.