The internet, especially the social media can be blamed for creating everything out of nothing. Such is the hype created around a few websites which provide you with anonymous feedbacks.
There is an ongoing trend of anonymous feedback applications like sayat.me and sarahah.com which enables people to post feedbacks for others anonymously. People these days are seen sharing the links to their Sayat and Sarahah profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat so that they could receive anonymous feedbacks about themselves. It has been noticed that people prefer and pay more attention to the qualities posted about them rather than criticism, because who wants people to criticise them anyway, especially from people they don’t even know. The irony here is that even those people who initially claimed that they did not care what other people think of them, that they are confident of themselves and do not seek social validation, end up creating their profiles for the same reasons mentioned above.
Sarahah, the most trending application in today's date, can be considered as a medium towards gaining social validation by teenagers and young adults. But why were these apps developed in the first place?
Sarahah was developed by an Arabic engineer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq. The term 'Sarahah' is an Arabic word which translates to 'frankness' or 'honesty'. He had initially developed the application for office employees so that they can send messages anonymously to another person regarding their strength and weaknesses. The intention behind the 'anonymity feature' was for individuals to speak what they wish without being hesitant, and also to decrease the chances of an individual holding a grudge against the sender of the message. However, he later decided to expand his business and hence made the application available to all. Tawfiq talked about his intention to provide people with a ‘constructive feedback’ about themselves but ironically, the feedbacks that people receive often lack the 'constructivism' aspect in it.
The team of both Sarahah and Sayat suggested an honest and positive approach in giving an opinion about others.
“ Honest feedback helps you find out how your own self-image differs from what others want to see in you. If you’re lucky you may just as well be confirmed that others think you are the person you strive to be.”
I might agree on the possibility of the feedbacks being ‘honest’ but I don’t believe them to be ‘constructive’ at all. Many people have known to receive love confessions including pieces of poetry for the other person about their beauty in the form of 'feedbacks'. Because of its anonymity feature, there is hardly any chance for the sender being caught. Even though Sarahah provides the user with the option to block such spammers, one cannot help their malicious intent.
Recently, a nasty experience was recorded by an engineering student in Chennai who was a Sarahah user:
"All sorts of messages started flooding in, such as, "You're pretty", "I want to meet you', these were really funny posts. It was great until a message showed up asking what my cup size is, and this anonymous person wanted to sleep with me. I was furious."
An avid blogger brought up the issue of people's obsession with negative comments and how it can bring down one's level of self-esteem.
"I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for an account. I knew people wouldn't hold back. After all, how hard is it to say awful things when you're hiding behind internet anonymity? What I didn't expect was my obsession with the negative comments."
The writer stated his own experience of using the application. He wrote that initially, he got quite good comments about himself such as 'you work hard and I respect you'. But as he went on using this app, he began to get comments such as 'your presence as a friend is disingenuous'. He actually ended up texting his friends asking whether he was 'a terrible friend'. Even though everyone denied it, he realized that such statements could actually turn out to be disastrous for someone with a low self-esteem.
After having gone through various anonymous messages which lose their anonymity (as they are posted on social media profiles), this is how people actually use this app:
- These sites are another way of gaining attention for both, the sender and the receiver. Just as people post the pictures of the places they have been to, they post the messages on their profile.
- The anonymous feedback game has been turned into a ‘guess-who-I-am’ game.
- Not everyone gets feedback about themselves. It depends on whether your friends on social media know you well enough. Through posting those feedbacks, people get to know how much you are liked by others.
Coming back to the hype this application has created. When people saw others using apps like Facebook or Instagram, they complied and followed it. Similarly, when people saw everyone using the application, they also thought of giving it a try. This is a perfect example of the 'bandwagon effect', a psychological phenomenon wherein people are engaged in something primarily because others are doing it, regardless of what their own beliefs are, which they may ignore or overlook. This has clearly emerged due to social media. As far as the negative use of Sarahah is concerned, it is up to the individual how s/he uses it.
The way people use Sarahah, there are certain messages which are better conveyed personally, and not through the social media. Such applications further destroy the essence of face to face and honest communications which have already been done by other social media applications. So, let us meet up and say it to them. Let us meet each other and provide 'constructive feedback', for that would give our conversations 'real' meaning through 'real' people.