Vanessa Martinez, a YouTuber who creates content under the pen name, SimplyNessa15, uploaded a 12-minute videotitled, “Getting roasted on the Sarahah app.”
Before the one-minute mark, she read the most chilling anonymous message I’d ever heard, “I know you made that video about me, and if you make another, I’ll make sure you don’t make it out alive.”
Her response, much like mine, was, “Oh my God!”
Sure, as a 22-year-old content creator who monetizes her life, Vanessa has probably received worse messages. So, does it mean we should label messages like this as “occupational hazard” and call it a day? No. And why not? Because younger kids use Sarahah, as well.
That is why I took it upon myself to research the app and create an “about me” guide for parents and guardians.
So, what is the Sarahah App?
The Sarahah App at a Glance
The Sarahah is a free social networking service that allows people to leave constructive feedback anonymously.
When translated to English, Sarahah, which is an Arabic word, means honesty. Saudi Arabian developer, Zain-Alabdin Tawfiq, created and launched Sarahah as a website in November 2016.
The original concept was game-changing. It was a service designed for employees to leave their most honest feedback without the threat of losing their jobs.
Later, it was available for social use, where people could solicit honest feedback from their family and circle of friends through the use of URLs.
Who is using it?
On June 13, 2017, Tawfiq launched the Sarahah mobile app following the website’s popularity in the Middle East and Africa.
It attained worldwide success in July 2017 and became one of the most popular free apps on the IOS App Store and the Google Play Store. The Sarahah app reportedly has over 300 million users worldwide.
This growth is a result of a Snapchat (Snap) update that allowed users to share links on their snaps. Since Snapchat’s user base is mostly teenagers, they quickly integrated Sarahah URLs into their snaps.
How does it work?
Sarahah is a messaging app with a twist — the sender is anonymous.
Users can set up by entering their name, email, username, and password. Once logged in, they can share their Sarahah URL (e.g., abc.sarahah.com) on websites and other social media platforms to receive anonymous, “constructive messages” from anyone.
This includes family, friends, strangers, fellow Sarahah app users, and even those who aren’t on the app. The messages appear on the mobile app or website.
Users can’t respond to messages but can favorite the ones they like.
Reasons Why Young People Can’t Get Enough
What makes Sarahah app marketable and appealing is that users can receive or give their honest opinion without ruining relationships.
Due to its minimal interface, sending messages is uncomplicated. Also, users receive messages in conversational bubbles that are aesthetically pleasing.
Let’s explore the essential features.
Ghosts — but not really
Pre-teens and teenagers predominately use the Sarahah app. And kids love nothing more than the freedom to express themselves anonymously without consequences.
Unlike anonymous, location-based apps like Whisper and Spout, that give users little control over the messages they stumble upon, Sarahah’s anonymity is unique in a few ways.
Users choose which pool to solicit feedback from when they share their Sarahah URL with specific people. Additionally, users control their profile visibility in the app or website search box, including the decision to receive messages from unregistered users.
However, if they choose to opt-out of the latter, their profile will appear in the search tab, and anyone can send a message anonymously.
Just like an “@”
For users to access full functionality, the Sarahah app allocates unique URLs to everyone upon registration. It’s the only way to receive feedback from others.
The link typically follows the format — username.sarahah.com — and is usable anywhere online. Once the link is uploaded, anyone by default settings can submit feedback which comes in the form of a text message.
You can view these messages on the Sarahah app or website. This feature is a particularly handy tool for businesses that wish to assess their operations or receive feedback from customers for development purposes.
For social usage, it allows users to receive the unfiltered opinions people have about them.
Although Sarahah’s about us promotes “honest, constructive feedback,” privacy is still at the forefront of Tawfiq’s mission.
By default, profiles don’t appear in searches, and non-registered users are not permitted to send messages. The official website states that they won’t “disclose users’ identities without consent,” hence, why users can control their visibility and message settings.
The Sarahah app profile pages are minimalistic in design. It features a white background, username, number of anonymous messages received, and the Sarahah URL — for people to click and leave feedback.
There are two ways to access the profile page: through the unique URL or search tab.
The Sarahah app is more than a messaging app. It offers limited functionality and a minimalistic interface.
The app has four primary tabs: profiles, messages, search, and explore.
The message tab, which is the central window of the Sarahah app, houses all sent, received, and favorited messages. In that space, users can heart messages, block senders, or report the message. However, the aftermath of reporting feedback is unclear.
Furthermore, the search tab allows both users and non-users to search for people and send them an anonymous message.
Next, the explore tab, which is currently marked “soon,” will be available next update.
Lastly, as discussed above, the profile page helps users to manage their appearance on the Sarahah app.
What Are People Saying?
The Sarahah app has several customer reviews and different ratings on Android and Apple platforms.
On Google Play, it’s rated 4.0 out of a 5-star rating and has over 500,000 downloads.
Mariam Hamad, a customer who views Sarahah as a “helpful app,” is a big fan of the platform and loves the overall concept. She gave the app 4.0 out of 5-stars. Her only misgiving was that neither the Sarahah app nor website allows users to respond to the anonymous messages received.
On the other hand, user D_A warned that Sarahah is a “platform for cyberbullying.” He goes on to label the app as addictive and emotionally destructive.
D_A’s primary concern was how the app’s simple prompt, “Leave a constructive message,” reels in cyberbullying. He rated the app 1.0 out of a 5-star rating.
Let’s Talk Facts
During our research, we came across an incredible resource that teaches effective communication between parents and kids.
It made us see the value of having an honest conversation, and we would like to apply what we learned by answering the most significant and most frequently asked questions.
Is the Sarahah app genuinely anonymous?
As previously discussed, the concept of the Sarahah app was originally based on a user’s ability to provide feedback without fear of losing their jobs, ruining relationships, or making things awkward.
Currently, it’s impossible for feedback solicitors to detect the identity of senders.
However, by sending the Sarahah link to a small group or specific people, it may be possible to identify the face behind the message. That said, the results from this method aren’t factful; instead, complete assumption.
Furthermore, there have been no reports of exposed senders since its conception. Most importantly, we have to specify that only the messages are anonymous. Profiles, depending on settings, is viewed by anyone.
Are there age restrictions on the app?
Yes. Google Play and iTunes app store require users to be at least 17-years-old. Android platforms, additionally, recommend parental guidance.
Realistically, kids younger than the specified age can easily download the app. So, it’s essential for parents to restrict apps by rating in app stores.
In all honesty, we’re not particularly thrilled about teens using the Sarahah app. Several customer reviews strongly suggest that Sarahah is a cyberbullying tool due to its anonymous concept.
Anyone can bully, threaten, or say anything without repercussions. For these reasons, the Sarahah app is not appropriate for tweens or teens.
How is cyberbullying on Sarahah different from other social media platforms?
Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube aren’t immune to trolls and bullies. Fortunately, anyone spreading hatred or misbehaving online is seen quickly, and their account, suspended.
However, on the Sarahah app, there’s no way to determine the face behind a threatening message.
Several kids and teenagers on the app may be encouraged to self-harm or commit suicide, like in the story below. The fact that the person behind the message could be a close friend, acquaintance, colleague, or relative makes the app even more dangerous.
How does the Sarahah app integrate into Snapchat?
Sarahah’s influence is longer within the app. It extends to other social media platforms, as well.
Due to a Snapchat feature that allows users to add links to their snaps, there are millions of kids and teenagers around the world who use Sarahah alongside Snapchat.
To access this feature, users tap a paperclip icon in Snapchat and embed their Sarahah URLs to solicit information about themselves. Although this integration is a smart tool for businesses, and perhaps adults, it can be quite dangerous for kids and teenagers.
Snapchat has an estimated 86 million active users on the app daily. So, this means, the number of hateful messages, racism, sexual harassment, and threats increase exponentially.
Why was the app removed from app stores?
Katrina Collins, an Australian mother, created a petition to have to the Sarahah app removed from app stores when her 13-year-old daughter received foul and offensive anonymous messages.
According to her post on change.org, some messages encouraged her daughter to kill herself.
The petition quickly gained attention when 468,507 signed. Following another claim that the Sarahah app was facilitating cyberbullying, Google Play and iTunes removed it in February 2018.
Tawfiq reiterated the age restrictions and stated that the app is not for younger teens. Furthermore, he told BBC that he was “very optimistic” about reaching a “favorable” understanding with both Apple and Google.
As at May 2019, the Sarahah app is available on Google Play for download with an advanced AI-based text moderation engine.
The website is still active, and due to its mobile responsiveness, iPhone users can create a shortcut and use it in place of the app.
How Did We Get This Information?
To provide you with first-hand experience with the Sarahah app and its users, we downloaded the app and used it for a considerable amount of time.
Like YouTuber SimplyNessa15, we embedded our Sarahah link on our social media pages — Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. And asked people to send us feedback.
Our anonymous messages ranged from funny and complimentary to what we classify as, “What did I ever do to you?”
In all honesty, if you have thick skin, using the Sarahah app is fun and revolutionary. It’s a handy developmental tool that gives a pat on your back for your positives traits.
Additionally, it highlights certain personality traits to help you to make changes. Nevertheless, it’s neither a platform for kids nor teenagers.
Are There Other Apps like Sarahah?
There are a few Sarahah competitors on the market. Here are our notable picks.
Whisper is an anonymous social networking app where anyone can divulge their deepest, darkest secrets and thoughts to a sea of faceless people. The audience, in return, can voyeuristically read and respond to any confession that catches their fancy.
Unlike Sarahah, on Whisper, there are no user accounts or profiles. You sign up and start sharing. Users post confessions (called whispers), by superimposing text on a photo.
You can either allow the app to automatically assign a picture based on the contents of your text or upload your own.
Shortly after your confession is live, other users within a specific radius can read and respond. On Google Play, it’s rated 4.0 out of 5 stars.
Created by Leif K-Brooks and launched in 2009, Omegle is perhaps, the biggest and most popular anonymous chat platform on the internet.
Unlike Sarahah, you don’t need to sign up. Also, personal credentials are not required. Anyone can access the website on a device, and instantly, begins chatting with a random stranger.
But like Whisper, users are anonymous to each other, unless you choose to tell someone who you are.
Omegle doesn’t have an overall app rating since it’s a website. But, a user gave the site 4.0 out of 5 stars.
She liked the concept but worried about unsupervised kids and pedophiles.
Spout is a free, anonymous, location-based chat app that allows you to express yourself and connect with others around you freely.
You can share anything that’s on your mind, seek advice, ask questions, and see what others are doing.
It differs from Sarahah because it does use URLs. But like Whisper, you can adjust your location radius to view nearby posts or around the world.
However, the app is 100 percent profile and username free. It currently has 2.5 stars out a 5-star rating on the Apple store.
The Most Important Things to Note
Sarahah achieved remarkable success due to its spin on anonymous messages. The initial concept was game-changing and even more so when it was suitable for social use.
However, and this fact remains true: Any anonymous app, irrespective of its mission, soon becomes a breeding ground for cyberbullying, threats, sexual harassment, racism, and hateful messages.
Sarahah is beneficial when used with good intentions but extremely harmful when used negatively.
As long as people from different walks of life have access to the app, children and teenagers should be restricted from downloading the Sarahah app.
What would you do if you found the Sarahah app on your kid’s phone? Share your thoughts below!