What You Don’t Know About 250 Millions Users on Sarahah
If a girl is truly no one, she has nothing to fear. Jaqen H’ghar
The commercial matrix of consumerism has ensured we stay surprised and wanting for more thrill all the time. Check out any product ad video, you will notice a compelling story that either makes you a hero or motivates you to follow the right path, never without endorsing the product itself. An evergreen (with the best ROI) propaganda, reinforcing narcissism is the surest way a salesman can win his customers. Be it nostalgia-marketing, or campaigns like #TakeASelfie, the digitally active iGens have found a way to assert their identity and opine their thoughts as a natural-over-network right.
Or so we are told to believe. As Slavoj Žižek introduces this concept in The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, “it doesn’t give you what to desire, it tells you how to desire.” We only have to look at how popular Sarahah has got in just a few days. As if the online community was so much in need for constructive feedback, Sarahah continues to top Apple’s App Store Download charts by engaging 250 million users. Being a one-way anonymous messenger, millennials find the app to boost their self-esteem, and understand what the world thinks about them. And the prompt is simple and clear:-
Social critics believe that Sarahah is the golden apple for both, narcissistic individuals (and who isn’t a narcissist, in some way or the other?), and sadistic trolls (again, who isn’t?). Be it the urge to find good stuff about me from anonymous acquaintances, or the thrill of speaking my heart out to someone who wouldn’t ever find out my identity, the bottom line is the anonymity such app promise.
This is similar to a blindfold seduction, the whole excitement of knowing someone from distance. Speaking about Seduction as one of the foundations of human behavior, Baudrillard writes:- In order to understand the intensity of ritual forms, one must rid oneself of the idea that all happiness derives from nature, and all pleasure from the satisfaction of a desire. On the contrary, games, the sphere of play, reveal a passion for rules, a giddiness born of rules, and a force that comes from ceremony, and not desire.
From Pseudonyms to Sarahah Troll Sena
But Sarahah is not the first one to give you that mask of anonymity. So while one section of our society is right in worrying about Sarahah’s massive popularity, it only takes us to look into history to find similar designs of anonymity worldwide.
Until a few months ago, we had this app called Yik Yak which functioned pretty much same like Sarahah. We continue to have Ricochet, Psst, Kindly, Whisper, each tempting you with a chance to know what your contacts really think about you, compounded by the impish urges for the sender to be honest (brutally) while writing a constructive message. All in all, it could be marketed as making you an undercover, distant cyber-space commentator on people you know in meatspace.
The incentives to remain underground and anonymous is inherently boosted by the over-emphasis of surveillance in modern society. Michel Foucault explains in Discipline and Punish how schools, prisons, office spaces all have been designed with an innate compulsion to watch over the subjects. To perpetuate the order in society, he is seen, but he does not see; he is an object of information, never a subject in communication.
Today, every site you visit is collecting massive data about you. More analytics to trace your user behavior gives the site open access to your online behavior and demographic information. Aligned with the American Civil Liberties where encryption and anonymity are the modern safeguards for free expression, staying anonymous digitally is by far the only way to insulate our physical lives from the repercussions of online activities.
(#Tip:- To reduce these commercial surveillance on your online activities, you should install a free blocker such as Ghostery. )
Annoyed People who Supported donations to Julian Assange after MasterCard betrayed
But let’s retrace to the days of the low-width internet, with websites like 4chan offering total anonymity to its users. With a vision to provide complete anonymity of users, 4chan doesn’t even require your email address or any other information before posting and sharing content on the website. It was in those days when political correctness wasn’t compulsory, nor were sharing jokes very offensive.
Just to bring perspective, it was chic-like fun those days bombarding a website with more traffic than it could handle, or sending pizzas to random people, triggering prank calls gained immense popularity through the anonymous content display on the net. These anonymous people would again be active to bring Julian Assange online through Operation Hot Pockets.
The First time Anonymity Challenged the Establishments
Pamphlets used in October Revolution were mostly anonymous in nature. The publishers of the controversial Rangila Rasool never disclosed who the writer was. The book is still banned in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as it degrades Muhammad’s teaching. Writers like Mark Twain and Agatha Christie have used different names to get their books published. A good lot of underground journalists have lifesaving motives to hide their identities, for obvious reasons I believe.
Remember the 2008 Tom Cruise video that Church of Scientology wanted to censor because it was embarrassing? That was exactly the year when a certain group of anonymous 4chan users decided to take things in their hands. Rebellious by spirits, users discovered huge support against morally corrupt institutions and ways to combat internet censorship.
The story picked pace in other digital channels and within a few days, you had a crowd of protesters gathering outside Church of Scientology headquarters, the large bundles of black faxes and prank calls and not to miss out, anonymous people crashing their websites. Thus for the first time, Internet became the most effective means to gather support from a community. The Project Chanology was only the beginning.
It wouldn’t be many days later that these anonymous netizens involved themselves in challenging authorities whether by hacking Tunisian Government’s website, or supporting Occupy Wall Street. A new age of internet activism owes much to anonymity. In a way, they have all the way been echoing the sentiments of Napoleon, “The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.”
Your morality is what You do when no one’s watching
A symbol of postmodern rebellion, the Anonymous user controls unchecked power on the Internet. Whilst movements like Project Chanology and Occupy Wall Street were managed by delocalized and leaderless communities, anonymity is not a deciding factor of your social participation. Evidently, we never lived in a Dionysian Paradise where compassion and altruism served greatest ideals.
Living in a world of simulated pretensions, suspicion is as much pervasive as faith. People choose to get involved in a phenomenon without disclosing their real motives. Just like the protagonist from V for Vendetta, the masked identity can question establishments without any remorse. However, the same anonymous face can promote hatred and acidic trolling, only to degrade the quality of online discussions.
We could dwell in historical anecdotes to search for the need of anonymity in societal lifestyle. Or can look in culture itself where the Church partook in anonymous confessions. The quintessential question however, was long back structured by Plato in context of the Ring of Gyges. What would you do if you had a ring wearing which could make you invisible? Would you still adhere to social norms and behave according to common decency if you were unnoticed? The good news is that you don’t have to answer this, so long your online behavior reveals some deep secrets about you.
What all the speculations and forecasts don’t wish to investigate is: whether you would feel comfortable in a world where everyone around you is masked? Or Anonymous?
(originally published at Prodios)