The Disruption that is the Sarahah App

Are Kenyans ready for its kind?

Sometimes it baffles me the amount of disdain we have for each other. It really does. And the Sarahah App couldn’t have demonstrated it any better. The fact that you will follow someone or be someone’s friend and when given the chance to ask them something anonymously, you will touch on the one thing that you know is their greatest vulnerability or heartache. If not, you will say something to shame them or to make them feel lesser of a person. It’s like we find some pleasure in seeing other people hurt or struggle or suffer in life.

It’s human nature to be curious, I am. That I can’t deny. And sometimes I get into trouble because of my curiosity, it makes me very inquisitive. When someone gives me a half-baked story, I want to know it all. What went down? What caused it? Why didn’t you do something about it? And I’m candid about my curiosity. So I ask. And if the person doesn’t want to tell me about it, I respect their decision and I retreat. In as much as I’m left feeling like, “why start a story that you’re not giving the full details?”, “you might as well just have eluded it from the beginning.” But I know I wouldn’t use a platform to poke into someone’s life on that very thing that they weren’t comfortable talking to me or to others about.

This really got me thinking about a regular day. You know where you are interacting with these people who are a part of your life in one way or another – your friends, your colleagues, your acquaintances, and even your clients. It’s quite fascinating the wild thoughts that go on in people’s minds, and how people are so good at concealing those thoughts. That the only way they can be able to express those thoughts is through a platform that offers anonymity. Has anonymity become such a selling point for us? Like, what if the names leaked? Of course they won’t, but what if they did? Would you stick up for yourself and your thoughts?

I’ve seen my friends share the messages the received in their Sarahah app that they were trying to appropriately respond to via their timelines so that the anonymous person(s) who had asked the question or made the comment can be able to see the response. They were all over the timelines on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And as I read through, I was like why would you even put yourself in such a position? And fact is that we’re all different. People could have been using it for various reasons and there’s no right or wrong one per se. The ones that come top of mind are;

There are some things about you that you want to hear from others – your family, your friends, people you have worked with or interacted with. Nice things. Things that make you feel good about yourself. You know that vibe you put out there; you want to know whether it reaches to the people it’s targeted at and what they in turn feel about you.

  • To clear the air,

Say you were going through a situation that you haven’t necessarily talked about publicly, but you know everyone low key knows about it and you use this as an avenue for these people to tell you what they know and ask you what they want to know about it. And then you share things from your perspective and you can update them on how you’re dealing and simply clear the air.

  • To pick people’s brains,

Sometimes you just want to know what the people in your circles think about you. The good, the bad and the ugly – just go for it. The people crushing on you, lusting on you, hating on you, the ones who can’t stand your guts, the ones who think that you’re such a tool. Basically, your people being real about what they think of your existence.

  • To feed your curiosity,

When you just want to know how this app works and what it really is about, because you’ve seen that most of your friends or the people on your timeline have created an account and they are responding to all these random messages.

But is it really worth it? Do we need anonymity for us to be able to share these things? I know some are a little on the crazy side. But I keep saying that I personally would prefer if someone came up to me and told me what they needed to tell me and then leave me to decide what I’ll do with that information. Whether I’ll concur, get irritated, get angry, get amused, the most important thing is that they were courageous enough to tell it to my face and stick by their thoughts, their words and their feelings. There’s a form of respect that comes with people putting their name against anything. You know that your character is in question and so you exercise some form of restraint.

Sarah was created by a Saudi Arabian developer, Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq in November 2016 (Source). Ideally, this app was meant to be used in a corporate setting, because at work is where you really can’t speak your mind as you would love to, especially around sensitive issues that you need to be addressed or resolved by say your Human Resource Team or the Senior Executives. Especially if it’s something that would put your job on the line, we joke about “career limiting moves” but yo! That shit is serious. So it was supposed to be a tool that would help employees provide unfiltered feedback to their employers. However, given the rapid uptake, Tawfiq quickly realized that the service could be useful outside of the corporate settings. That one’s friends might want to anonymously provide constructive feedback to each other as well and help them improve on their strengths.

It was a recent and disruptive discovery in Kenya a couple of days ago and people really went HAM on it. So much so it was Trending from last Friday into the weekend and earlier in the week. Many of us created accounts and shared the links with our friends, and we continue to do so. Of course most of us didn’t use it for what it was intended for. And it had me wondering, are we ready for such a disruption? I feel like our nature is to make all the fun we can out of an innovation, then take it seriously after we’ve drained the innovation of all its juiciness.

But you know of out of our craziness, there’s always that one person who gets it right and sets an example for the rest of us. One such example was one Dr. @MistaChrisa who’s a practicing gynaecologist. He requested his followers to use the app to send him any women’s health related questions that they’ve been keeping to themselves. The embarrassing, awkward, confusing, worrying and stressing questions they’ve always wanted to ask but couldn’t or would otherwise conclude with an “asking for a friend.” I remember seeing his first Instagram post, him sharing his Sarahah link and making the request, and I was like, “Whoa! Whoa! Hold up! Are you sure about this? Are you ready for the madness that’s about to get into your app?”

Then shortly, he’s answering questions one by one. Questions that are women’s health related. Questions that are embarrassing, awkward, confusing, worrying and stressing. But these are questions that make us women have sleepless nights, that make us worry all the damn time. And he’s doing it like a boss, with so much respect and graciousness just like he had promised. I think he deserves a standing ovation for that. Thank you Dr. @MistaChrisa. Follow him on his IG page, you might have yourself a new gynae if you didn’t have one. It’s free consultancy for now, but don’t get too comfortable 😉 😉

So do I think we’re ready for such disruptions? I think we are. We just didn’t know its full potential. It may have looked like all fun and games, but we just needed one person to get the gist of it, and then set an example for the rest of us. And then we will take the bull by the horns and explore the different ways we can make it work for us in our different sectors, areas of expertise and capacities.

So, go on, find what you’re good at and use that to serve the world. It really is the little things in life that matter.

Stay Inspired,