internet culture

Want people you barely know to offer an opinion about your life? That’s what Sarahah users are doing

Examining the anonymous feedback messaging app that is setting social media on fire.

Is there any form of social media that doesn’t cause some sort of uneasiness? Twitter attracts trolls, Instagram influencers make you feel terrible about your non-photogenic life, Facebook is the breeding ground of FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out and if none of these were enough to cause full-fledged depression and anxiety, welcome to the age of Sarahah.

We have expressed our desperate need for validation in public for so long that a private messaging app which “helps people self-develop by receiving constructive anonymous feedback” – Sarahah’s description on the app store – feels harmless. Yet as the deluge of Sarahah screenshots shared in the past few weeks across social media timelines have shown – “private” only means that which is not outrageous or flattering enough to be shared. How else should we live our lives online, seeking validation from near-total strangers?

Being anonymous online can be freeing for all kinds of people, and Indians love doling out advice to near-total strangers – so its no surprise that Sarahah held the number one position on the Apple App store in 30 countries and is now gaining serious traction in India. But while receiving messages may be exciting, traumatic or even as Tawfiq hopes, constructive – what is the strange thrill that people get from sending anonymous messages, that they cannot hope to find in real life?

How it works

Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, the Saudi programmer who made Sarahah saw the app as a feedback service meant for the workplace, a virtual forum for sincere criticism. Tawfiq put it on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store and claims that the site garnered more than 270 million views and 20 million users in just a few weeks. This makes Sarahah more popular than other flash-in-the-pan public apps like Whisper or YikYak and Secret.

Sarahah allows you to receive private and anonymous messages from anyone with your profile details. The app’s interface is basic and clean. You need an email address to register along with a unique user name. Once you share your profile name on your social media network and responses start coming in, you can check your inbox and flag, delete, or favourite messages, even block senders. To send a message you simply search for a contact’s username. The website wants you to have a positive experience – it provides cues like “Leave a constructive message :)” or “Thank you for your honesty :)” once you send a message. But as users have shown, this is not always the case.

What it does

Within a few months, app reviews online have begun to speak about how Sarahah is aiding and abetting cyber bullying, flagrant racism, sexual intimidation and even rape and death threats, particularly to a vulnerable population of minors and women online. It should come as no surprise that the same abuse that is rampant on Twitter (which also allows anonymous profiles) should show up on Sarahah too.

An anonymous user on Sarahah asks the recipient of the message to convert to Hinduism so they can
An anonymous user on Sarahah asks the recipient of the message to convert to Hinduism so they can "become more beautiful".

There are also positive sides to Sarahah that don’t make it into reports. If the social media shares are anything to go by, anonymity is also enabling confessions of unrequited love, admiration and approval – almost a discreet, conservative version of Tinder. A popular social media blogger recently Tweeted her desire to connect with the mystery messengers who’ve expressed a desire for friendship over Sarahah.

Receiving messages from strangers on the app felt a bit like being at a masked ball – I was left wondering which half-familiar near-stranger posted the wildly seductive message, who it was that complimented my hair, who was curious about my next book and who said those unmentionable things with such flavour that I had to laugh. I was also spammed, then flummoxed by a political message.

But it was when I posted messages to others as an anonymous Sarahah user that I really felt the full force of what makes Sarahah so addictive, so popular and so incredibly complex.

Giving as good as you get

Most religions and philosophies remind us that giving is better than receiving, but on Sarahah, the giving is also without consequence – unlike the receiving. In an age of digital over-saturation, when so much of our socialising takes place online and our sense of self is reflected and refracted by screens in digital mediums – is it possible that true honesty, like mercy, in Portia’s famous speech in The Merchant of Venice, blesses both the giver and the receiver? Can creator Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq’s vision be realistic? Or do we all descend into chaos by being the meanest version of ourselves when no one is looking?

I would stand by everything I posted on people’s Sarahah profiles – but I’m not entirely sure what my sneak-attacks, however well-meaning, say about me. Did I want to have the last word on an old conversation that still rankled? Did I need closure? Did I mean to open an old wound? Sarahah gave me the chance to experience to have my say and walk away but it left me with a feeling of having shattered an unspoken rule of social interaction.

We let social media into our personal lives without much examination, and it brings insecurities and freedoms that we have not yet fully begun to grasp because this measure of online activity and intimate access is unprecedented. After all, messaging boards don’t hurt people, people do. Surely choosing to be use an app should be just that – an opportunity to enlarge our experience. Except, it’s worthwhile to remember that technology changes our world not to promote happiness, as much as to promote the next new thing. As we navigate the worlds of Sarahah and Snapchat and Facebook or whatever the next app throws at us, I’d add only the advice of a revelatory renaissance poet, who imagined many things, but not the age of Sarahah: ‘to thine own self be true.’

Karishma Attari is the author of I See You and Don’t Look Down. She runs a workshop series called Shakespeare for Dummies and is currently writing a novel titled The Want Diaries. Her Twitter handle is @KarishmaWrites.

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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch. For those of you just looking for a high quality fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge has Rs. 4500 off on 22nd September.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of and not by the Scroll editorial team.