My opinion (rant) about the Sarahah app

There's a new fad this month — the Sarahah app, which allows people to send you anonymous messages. And I cannot even begin to tell you how bad of an idea I think this is.

I know, I know, it's supposed to be a positive thing — an opportunity to get honest feedback — and maybe I'm being a buzzkill. It was first created so people could expose bosses who mistreat employees. But, of course, it's spreading like wildfire among kids and young adults more so than business professionals.

Sure, I have seen many friends get really sweet responses. But the thing is, when some people are given the chance to be anonymous or hide behind a pseudonym, they are cruel. It's like a playground for bullies —  a place where you aren't held accountable for what you say.

One Facebook user had the perfect response: "Regarding Sarahah, I remember something darker. I remember my high school abusing a site called Formspring to tease a girl. I remember the anonymous  messages escalating to pervasive harassment. I remember how it contributed to a suicide attempt. And I remember, as I always will, the way she died two weeks later."

"These sites are dangerous. Minds are vulnerable, especially for those who are already struggling with self esteem. Your friends do not need to hide behind a screen to give you 'constructive feedback.' ...  Participation in this program only perpetuates the threat. Stop it in its tracks, and you truly, honestly may save a life."

Cyberbullying is part of the reason that suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. Alane Fagin of Child Abuse Prevention Services told CBS, “It’s very important for parents to talk to their kids all the time about new apps and new ways of communication, so that they don’t abuse it.”

Writing for The Oakland Press, hateful anonymous comments were a daily occurrence for me. One time, I wrote about a synthetic marijuana and the possible side effects of the drug. For at least a month, I was inundated with threats from commenters (mostly people who were using the drug), pretty much calling for my head on a stick and telling me I should be fired, all because of something I wrote unbiasedly, quoting other sources. Reading comments like this was disheartening — especially when I was criticized for my writing abilities — and many times it would trigger my panic attacks. So, I learned to try not to read the comments.

If I were to give people free access to anonymously comment about me on the Sarahah app, I would be opening myself up to something I have tried so hard to avoid — letting other people, especially people too chicken to say it to my face, determine my self worth.

And I'm an adult. Kids and teens, well, they can be even more cruel. If you've seen "Mean Girls," Sarahah reminds me of the electronic version of the "Burn Book."

I remember a man once confided  in me that his high school daughter was getting cyberbullied; she was called a slut and was told that she should kill herself. He wanted me to try and get the school to do something about it. But, nothing could be done because the comments were all anonymous. Now, with Sarahah, there is just another avenue for kids to torment fellow students. And, let's just say, I am not very happy about it.

For anyone who has received a negative comment on Sarahah, know that there are more people who love you and want to build you up than tear you down. The cruel comments — they aren't true! There will always be people who have the mentality of a kid who uses a magnifying glass to burn ants alive just to watch them squirm. They are just doing it because, for some reason, causing someone else pain makes them feel better about themselves.

Still, it's human nature that, even if a million people tell us we're beautiful, we'll believe the one person who tells us that we're ugly. And, I don't know about you, but I don't want to give someone the chance to do this to me.

If you have something good or bad to say about me, I don't want to hear it unless you're willing to say it with me KNOWING WHO YOU ARE. So I encourage all of you — send a text or Facebook message or an email WITH YOUR NAME ATTACHED to someone you love today and tell them how much they mean to you (or, even better, face-to-face). It will mean so much more than an anonymous comment on Sarahah.

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