The New Year had me thinking a lot about goals, values, ambitions, motivations, life, and how excited I was to wear my new fuzzy socks. With all the talk of “look how far you’ve come in a year” and “can you believe that was only 1 year ago” I found myself even more reflective and nearly bubbling over with blog ideas – two of which involved writing about goals and values.
At my old job, we had a list of working norms – kind of like guiding values – and each day at our morning huddle, we would say what working norm we were focusing on that day. I loved that idea. I mean, obviously, in theory, you were living into every positive attribute every day you walked into the office, but how nice it was to really put your heart and soul behind one guiding value each week.
For this reason, I’ve decided to dedicate a new series of “Res” posts to my own kind of working norms – my own mini-resolutions. You don’t have to buy into any of these. You don’t have to make your own. But maybe at some point, it’ll make you think about what it would look like to radically change your life one week at a time.
Res 31: Go Beyond the Anonymous
A couple weeks ago, I noticed a new app popping up on my Facebook timeline called Sarahah – from the Arabic word for Honesty. It was created in Saudi Arabia by Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq as a way for employees to give constructive feedback to their employers. Since then, it has grown virally, with friends and family sharing “constructive feedback” with each other.
It instantly reminded me of Yik Yak, a similar anonymous app that swept through my college during my junior spring and senior fall. People were taking the opportunity to hide behind a digital wall, spreading horrible messages about their classmates. Our tiny campus community - which had at one point seemed so utopian - now had an ugly stain.
Conversely, we also had a viral Facebook “friend” at my college campus called Westminster Compliments. Nearly everyone on campus was “friends” with Westminster Compliments. This “friend” encouraged classmates to send a private message with an anonymous compliment for another student/faculty/staff. Because this was monitored by a single anonymous student, the secretive factor remained while also keeping out the bullying or animosity. Those who gave compliments felt great. Those who received compliments felt great. There was no negativity. Only kindness.
I thought of those two examples when I first saw Sarahah, the purely anonymous posting tool. I couldn’t imagine much good coming of this new app.
A few days later, I noticed more and more people sharing their “profiles.” A few days after that, people weren’t just sharing their profile names, they were sharing their messages.
I watched my friends share these anonymous messages from their friends that said positive things about themselves or regretful wishes of “I wish we hadn’t fallen out of touch” type things. It all seemed fair and well. Of course, as I knew, I also had friends sharing horrible things. I had friends being told they were a whole slew of insults and names that I can only hope nobody would ever say to their face. That said, reading it behind a screen isn’t any easier. I was saddened, but ultimately not surprised by the negative comments that were coming from the anonymous app.
I’d been wondering if an app like Sarahah can really do any good. There were a couple times I noticed people sharing vague apologies, which seems nice at first. However, I feel like - much like the “we’ve fallen out of touch” and regret type messages - when you don’t know who it’s coming from, you can make assumptions of false apologies or never realize that the last person you expected it to come from was the actual person who pressed send.
Sarahah has since exploded on my timeline and as I thought about the nice things I’d say to each of the people, I realized those were all things I’d also feel completely comfortable saying to their face (or to their inbox with my name and number fully attached).
Then I scrolled past the Sarahah profile link posted by someone who had at one point hurt me deeply. I looked at their post and for a split second, forgot everything I knew about kindness and love and being a decent human. For a split second, I wanted to write something mean. I wanted to ask how they could have behaved the way they did. I wanted them to know how severely they had hurt me.
Of course, that flashed in and out of my head in a matter of minutes and I went back to whatever I was doing – likely posting some joy-fueled Happiness is. I was still perturbed by my moment of brief negativity and as I scrubbed the shampoo from my hair – because all best thoughts come in the shower – I realized something about the anonymous app.
If I really wanted to say something to that person, why didn’t I? Why didn’t I call or text or email or message as myself and tell them how I felt. The truth was, I didn’t want to say anything mean or angry. I didn’t want to hurt them – not in the slightest. I was a “regretful message” category. I wanted them to know that despite it all, I hope the best for them and that all things considered, I truly only care about their Happiness.
In my initial moment of darkness when I did, for a moment, wonder if I had it in me to send an angry message, I thought about what that would mean. I would get no satisfaction from sending that. All I would be doing was handing my hurt to someone else. I’m not saying I will never speak to this person again or that we won’t someday have this conversation, but sending an anonymous message only provides an avenue to hurting someone – to burning yourself as you hand them a hot coal.
It does not matter what a person has done to you. You cannot use their actions as an excuse to hurt someone else.
Resolution #31: Go Beyond the Anonymous
As I changed into my pajamas, I wondered what I would say to this person should I ever open the conversation. What would I say as Liz Buechele? What can I say right now? What am I comfortable putting out into the world?
That’s where I’m challenging you to begin today. All those nice things? Say them. Post them on their Facebook wall. Write them a letter. Loud and clear. All those personal things? Have a conversation. Open the dialogue. All those angry things? Let them go.
You can be angry. Sometimes it’s needed. Or sad. Or frustrated. Or whatever else you want to call the emotion. But if you use that to hurt someone else, you have to realize you’re getting burned in the process.
By all means, carry on with your Sarahah. I can’t stop you. But before you send something, really think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Is it kind? Is it honest? Will it make the person happy? If you answered yes to all those questions, maybe you should just tell them to their face.