NEW YORK — It’s called Sarahah – an app that functions a lot like a social network, except users send and receive messages anonymously.
Its developers initially wanted to help employees give anonymous feedback to their bosses to encourage a more productive work environment.
With zero marketing, Sarahah – which is the Arabic word for “candor” – has become a monster hit with teenagers in the United States, propelling it to the top of the iTunes app store and Google Play.
While the app encourages users to anonymously send constructive criticism to their peers, some critics say Sarahah has become a breeding ground for cyber bullying. In some cases, anonymous trolls have encouraged users to commit suicide.
“I’ve definitely seen a lot more positive messages than I’ve seen negative,” high school student Treasure Bruce told PIX11 News.
The 16-year-old downloaded the app a few weeks ago and says she doesn’t use it often but has friends who do.
“One of my friends got called out from somebody in her past that she dated,” she explained. “She’s been called a hoe.”
Family therapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling says the activity on the app is more than likely to produce depression and anger and even potential suicide in teenagers.
“[Teenagers] actually don’t understand the full and far-reaching effects of their comments and or their actions and how it could potentially affect them later in life,” she said.
As Sarahah remains the most downloaded app in the country, many experts believe its overnight rise is unsustainable and its popularity will soon fizzle out, a lot like past summer successes like Pokemon Go and Yik-Yak.
Developers for Sarahah tell PIX11 there are privacy features on the app that allow users to report abuse.