When you talk about Saudi Arabia, freedom isn’t the first word that comes to mind. Cutting a long point short, there’s essentially a lot of regulation and norms around social interaction, and the likes. Similar to the times of the Second World War, situations of absolute depravity tend to bring about a wave of innovation. Indeed, necessity is the mother of invention. The latest craze online Sarahah originates in Saudi Arabia. Also Read - Sarahah app no longer available on Google Play Store, App StoreAlso Read - Sagoon app launched in India, borrows from Facebook, Sarahah, WhatsApp, and more
In nations that are run with an iron fist, it makes sense to have anonymous feedback. In states that put certain ideologies above individual liberty and basic tenets of democracy such as free speech, such a tool would mean the road to freedom. Also Read - Facebook acquires messaging app 'tbh' that spreads positive vibes among teens
Saudi Arabia and China
These are two influential economies, but what’s common in both states are the regulations on its citizens. There’s reason why visitors to Saudi Arabia and China have to prepare beforehand, sensitize themselves and install VPNs and such other tools so that they can access the internet like it’s supposed to be free.
Speech and freedom are subjective matters in countries that rule with the fist. I’d agree briefly that my opinion is based on stereotypes. Sarahah is meant to be a harmless road to speak freely. And that’s where my problem begins. Yes, it’s an app with no political ideology or underscoring intent. But people will be people. Tinder is harmless. The internet is harmless. ALSO READ: Sarahah app: Do we really need an honest messaging app?
Who takes responsibility?
It’s all well and fine as long as Sarahah stays fun. I’m willing to forgive the times it turns lame as well. What happens when you suddenly receive letters in an envelope, albeit anonymous. Scarier than having an address right? It’s better to have a known enemy than an unknown enemy, right? It’s human nature to be intrigued by the unknown. What happens when a presumably innocent and noble cause gets owned by the unknown? It’s the same magnitude with which Blue Whale is increasing its list of victims. A play on young innocent minds. Or weak minds.
There’s definitely a fine line between mischief and crime, isn’t it? And in the eyes of the law, the answer lies in intent. Consider obscenity in comments received. Consider bullying, bodyshaming. What do you do when high school students sign up on Sarahah? Who takes responsibility? Could very well be mischief, but with the wrong intent does deserve legal help, and recourse. When would everyone wake up?
Terms and conditions
For an app that gives individuals the power to anonymously message someone else, the terms and conditions is rather bare bones.
It’s standard procedure for apps and services that revolve around user-generated content to absolve themselves of responsibility. Here, Sarahah says, “All communicated content on the website is the responsibility of their owners and Sarahah is not responsible for its content or any damage that could result from its content or the use of the site’s services.”
The power of anonymity is a long drawn battle. Globally, activists don’t fight senselessly. Internet freedom must be guarded. But given deprived individuals that bring about a sense of depravity into online and social communication under the garb of anonymity, we can’t help but desire a sense of responsibility.
This tweet does appear mischievous. Done in humor. But you get the idea. ALSO READ: Sarahah app elicits candid confessions and love interests, but Twitter has some savage replies
Concern around sound mental health
There are two flags I’d like to raise here. One’s the obvious fear of missing out among growing teens and young adults. The kind who feel under pressure to keep up with social clout. You may feel like laughing at someone who takes their friend count so seriously. But it’s the bubbly girl next to you, or the cool guy at work who probably cries it out when alone. That’s one implication of frequent social media posts of the next message they’ve received. What happens to those who don’t receive any messages? What’s worth noting is that the anonymous nature of Sarahah means that anyone could create messages praising themselves, or creating an element of rousing interest in them, and simply boast about it on social media.
Depression didn’t spare Robbin Williams either. It’s best then to have a responsible system that ensures that anonymity isn’t absolute, but there’s logs to ensure culprits are booked. Mentioning such measures would dissuade individuals with dubious intent from overpowering unsuspecting prey.
Which reminds me of the second flag I want to raise; Blue Whale notoriety as a result of online anonymity. Mental health professionals say we all need regulation and moderation in our use of the internet and social media. Everyone’s wired differently and individual appetite for criticism or abandonment could depend on various factors from one individual to the other.
Create an open internet
What we need is an open internet. Where everyone boys, girls, men, women can speak their mind out in the open. There’s email, there’s direct messaging across instant messaging and social networking services. Get your message across. As my friend and technology blogger Raju puts it, every platform is Sarahah.
So if you have teenagers who’ve just found this newest sensation online, you might want to caution them so that it doesn’t impact their appetite for food and the other pleasures of life.