The fact that social media has the most powerful hold over teenagers and young adults is not something that has to be reiterated. It is quite common knowledge, from the hundreds of meticulously curated Instagram posts to Snapchat stories to tweets. Nowadays, it’s hard for a teenager/YA to stray away from the idea of posting their lives for all the world to see. Social media has the power to build people up, but it is often forgotten that it holds the power to knock people down. Just like that.
Let us take a stroll down memory lane and acknowledge the great ‘Ask.fm’ phenomenon of 2011.
For those who don’t remember or have not heard of ‘Ask.fm’, it was an online website/app for users to ask anonymous questions about another user for the thrill of it. It constituted as a method of killing time for most teenagers and turned into quite the trend. Since, after all, what better demographic for an up and coming social media site to feed off than the bored and easily influenced teenagers?
Back when the Ask.fm trend started raging at my middle school in 2012, I had put the app to test. It turned out that it took less than 2 minutes to set up my profile and from there, it only took a couple seconds for the questions to flood in and for my confidence to break down. Around 120 seconds or so to feel isolated and alone. 120 seconds or so to feel like I was indeed what any bully thought of me.
About a month ago, a new anonymous social media site called ‘Sarahah’ started trending.
‘Sarahah’ was built by Saudi Arabian developer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, who wanted people to give honest feedback in the workplace without being afraid of the repercussions from their bosses. However, seeing as the app is quickly gaining popularity among teenagers with time on their hands during the long summer rather than the fed up employees in the workplace.
Basically, the app can be considered as ‘Ask.fm 2.0’, new and improved for 2017.
The only differences: 1) the user can link their account to their Snapchat and 2) only you can see the anonymous posts — nobody else can see what others have to say about you.
In hindsight, that can sound like a better deal than for everyone knowing what others have written as in Ask.fm. However, you are still receiving the messages from anonymous people. What does it matter that other people can see the anonymous messages when the only person affected by the messages will be you?
Upon receiving links to the ‘Sarahah’ of my friends, I’ve found that the opening message when you click on the link is “Leave a constructive message (:”
That is precisely the thing about teenagers and high school and all the other pretentiousness. We hear enough critique in our daily lives from friends, bullies, gossips, parents, family. Most importantly from ourselves. We hear critique from anyone and everyone willing to give it and willing to tear us down for the most part.
Why add on to that? Why create a platform for bored teenagers to give it a shot and receive more unnecessary messages that will only hurt their self-image? Why is ‘Sarahah’ necessary?
The mental health of teenagers is so important and a huge aspect of our society at this time. Mental health is important. It’s important to keep yourself safe and happy. Most teenagers are already faced with the stress of keeping up with their studies, the pressure of their future lives and other things. It’s imperative that teenagers aren’t faced with anonymous messages that could be meant to hurt them on top of that.
Sure, I’ll admit you can call me a hypocrite for having an Ask.fm at the all knowing age of 12. Now, I’m not quite positive why I made an account in the first place after seeing how many negative comments and hate I received. If you had asked me why I was creating such a hostile place using social media at the age of 12, my articulate response could quite possibly have been “I dunno.. I’m just bored”.
So, does that mean that boredom planted right into the destruction of my self-confidence? Possibly. However, one thing’s for sure. Teenagers are at such an impressionable time in their lives and they’re so easily influenced by how others are leading their lives. Whether it be out of boredom or wanting to fit in or just for giggles, some teenagers are simply creating an illusion of reality where they hide behind a screen and allow others to dictate who they are for them.
While on the topic, it would also be viable to address the fact that anonymous message sites such as these do bring positive comments as well as negative. Some friends and decent people do take the time to write compellingly sweet messages promoting the users’ self-worth and confidence.
However, the world is not composed of all decent people. As sad as it is to say, chances are that there will most likely be at least one negative comment. Although some users can handle a couple negative comments, it’s merely a controversial topic.
Yes, there is the possibility of receiving bullies and negative critique on other social media platforms such as Instagram or Twitter. Yet, there is a private profile option on those platforms and it is more or less designated to post photos or comments about one’s life. It isn’t designated for others to voluntarily say anything they feel about the user just because they’re under the mask of anonymity and justifying their unnecessary, blunt hurtful remarks as candor.
After all, if there already are platforms of social media where negative comments and bullies are hurting other teenagers, why go to the trouble of making more of those platforms?
Candor? More like slander.
Perhaps, it is not a question of are users able to handle a couple of negative comments but the question, should they have to handle a couple of negative comments.
As social experiments to surveys to psychologists can easily tell us, the mind is easily forged. Are the boredom and giggles truly worth the agony in the long run?
So, Sarahah: this is me calling you out for profiting off of the impressionable minds of teenagers all over. Just food for thought.