The Truth about honesty

Namira Hossain writes about the new app that has everyone talking

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Every few years or so, a new app comes along that dominates conversations and newsfeeds for a while. Very few could have missed the posts on Facebook with the illustration of a white envelope with a turquoise background, imploring for ‘feedback’ both positive and negative. For what may come across as a desperate need for attention and/or validation, it’s actual intentions were very different. The website claims that the app ‘helps you in discovering your strengths and areas for improvement by receiving honest feedback from your employees and your friends in a private manner.’ The Saudi programmer, Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq is definitely enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame with this app which has shot to the top of Apple’s mobile marketplace, but others are worried that this can easily become a platform for cyber-bullying.

20773645_1982737725073584_895115776_oThe way it works is fairly simple, as is the case with most apps that become popular. Users simply download the app on their mobiles or sign up for an account online. They then share the link to their Sarahah account to their social media networks and wait for the compliments and criticisms to pour in. Both well-wishers and haters alike can then choose to send in their opinions on whoever has opened themselves up to this kind of commentary, retaining complete anonymity. These comments are sent to the user in the form of an image, and whether the user shares these to their social media networks or not is their own prerogative.

The name of the app loosely translates to ‘honesty’ in Arabic and it exploits the innate human curiousity to know what others think of them. Some users claim that they want to know what others think of their public persona – and look at it as a way to get and give constructive feedback. Others tried it out for a few days and found that perhaps the app was not very useful or people were just downright mean and so they deleted their accounts. Many of the ones who did delete their accounts, had shared some of the nasty messages they got on their social media – and they ranged from fat shaming to comments on the supposed incompatibility of users with their significant others.

As it is, incidents of cyber-bullying is on the rise and for those of a more vulnerable nature – apps like this can seriously be detrimental towards a person’s mental health. The whole point of the app is that you are able to tell people things without them not knowing who you are, and often a person who would want to do so probably won’t have anything pleasant to say. The app is also most popular amongst teenagers, and nobody can deny that even without taking all the raging hormones into account – social media has not made this time easier for our youths. All the instant gratification from ‘likes’ and ‘reactions’ is breeding a world full of disconnected and disenfranchised young people. Add to this an app that gives free run to trolls, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster in your hands.

What about for adults though? Can receiving anonymous feedback actually aid one in their quest towards self-improvement? Perhaps, but in most cases there is a certain amount of accountability which is required for civility, once that threshold is broken and no civility remains, one can surmise that you are probably not going to get much that is productive out of this app. Similar apps have existed in the past such as Yik Yak and Secret, both of which offered anonymous platforms for gossip and idle chatter. They may have quickly amassed millions of users, but they too fizzled out as they too, became breeding grounds for toxicity. Bottom line? if you were thinking about downloading this app, definitely ONLY do so if you are thick-skinned and take what you hear with a pinch of salt. Oh, you may also want to stay away from the app if you are a Game of Thrones fan, as it has become a running joke about sending spoilers of the show to users.