It happens every now and then, on various social media platforms, that websites wanting their users to engage in answering questions submitted anonymously become super popular.
As a Twitter user, I’ve been exposed to such websites for a long time now. A few years ago, it was ask.fm that had everyone up in arms. Over the past few months, another website called Curious Cat took the cake. Today, Facebook users across Lebanon and the Arab World are discovering a website called “Sarahah” – Arabic for honesty – that does the exact same thing: you set up a profile, advertise for it and whoever wants to ask you or tell you anything can do so anonymously.
The idea may sound tantalizing at first, but anonymity has a way to bring out the worst out of people and you don’t want to submit yourself to that willingly, just because it sounds cute or it’s what everyone else in doing.
I’ve never used those websites, but I’ve seen what my friends and other people I follow get asked. While they might get the occasional adorable message from Mr or Ms. anonymous saying they have a crush on them and it stops at that, more often than not the messages verge on the vitriol and the hurtful and do not involve any of the “constructive criticism” that some people think the website will offer them. I know this firsthand from the comments I get on this blog: the personal attacks are mostly from people under fake names and fake emails.
Exposing yourself to anonymous criticism is not the key to become a “better” person. Computer screens and keyboards give people the ability to say things they’d never tell you to your face. On the contrary, it will only serve to bring you down. Your actual friends would tell you when you mess up or when you have to fix something about the way you’re handling things to your face and don’t actually need a platform for them to do so anonymously. If they don’t do so, then perhaps you have to reassess the sensibilities of that friendship.
On the other hand, strangers whose opinion of you is based on what you post on Facebook or what you tweet are those whose criticism you should take with a pinch of salt. They don’t know you. They’re only sending you those messages because that’s what being anonymous allows them to do.
Moreover, don’t think that these websites are exclusive to your family and friends: anyone with an internet connection can access your profile and submit anything they want to say about you. This opens all the abuse doors you can think of. We might act all macho and non-caring, but we’re all affected by what others say about us to some degree. Do you really want to be willingly bullied by anonymous cowards online who are drowning in their own insecurities and see you as easy submissive prey for them to lash out at?
Don’t waste your time on useless websites which will give you more of a headache than anything else. Use that free time you’re using in thinking such websites can be good for you in things that can actually make you a better person: read up on the world, see what’s happening around you, hang out with your actual friends and ask them their opinion over dinner.
Simply put: if you want honesty, have those who actually know you tell it to your face. Ask your friends to send you messages or texts or Instagram DM’s with that same criticism you’re trying to get from people who may not know you. Don’t think that validation or improvement can come from those who don’t have the guts to tell you, to your face, bi sarahah, whatever they want to say.