How Do You Apologize?

How Do You Apologize?

When was the last time you gave or received an apology?

How was the apology delivered? Was it in person? Handwritten? Digital?

How sincere or meaningful was the apology? Did it soothe hurt feelings or remedy the situation?

In “How We Apologize Now,” Lindsey Weber writes about the growing phenomenon of digital apologies from celebrities:

To be famous in 2019 one must possess (in addition to talent, or at least popularity) a patina of authenticity and a willingness to admit wrongdoing. Also: an iPhone.

Lady Gaga makes for a perfect case study. On Thursday, she sent an apologetic message to her more than 77 million Twitter followers. The singer wanted to let her Little Monsters know that, after renewed criticism of R. Kelly, she had decided to pull a track she had recorded with him in 2013 from streaming music services. “I’m sorry,” she wrote, her words cast against a grayish faux-paper background familiar to Apple users and celebrity news consumers, “both for my poor judgment when I was young, and for not speaking out sooner. I love you.”

Her statement was written using Notes, a free app that is preloaded onto Apple devices for the purpose of storing personal memories and to-do lists. In recent years, though, it has become the medium of choice for celebrity mass communication.

The reasons for writing these Notes vary, but oftentimes they are mea culpas for public errors. Armie Hammer apologized with a Notes app note for criticizing his peers for posting grief selfies after Stan Lee’s death (“I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart and will be working on my Twitter impulse control”). Kendall Jenner apologized for her clothing line’s insensitive use of the Notorious B.I.G.’s and Tupac Shakur’s likenesses (“we are huge fans of their music”). Logan Paul apologized for videotaping a dead body in Japan (“I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention”). Cardi B notably did not apologize for secretly marrying Offset (“at least ya can stop saying i had a baby out of wedlock”). Ariana Grande once apologized for licking a doughnut (“I will strive to be better”).

Other public figures who have used Notes to make statements include Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Drake, Pete Davidson and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Part of the medium’s appeal is the ease with which its contents may be shared. Notes app apologies are screenshotted and dispersed, first on Twitter and Instagram, and then in entertainment news reporting. They are embedded into tabloid websites and quoted by magazines, as polished statements coming directly from publicists might be.

The article continues with some advice on what makes a good — and bad — digital apology:

The best Notes app statements follow the same guiding principles of any good apology: get in and get out; be direct; don’t try too hard to defend yourself; and (this is a bonus!) maybe say what you’re doing moving forward. “Folks are more likely to give you a second shot if you are just willing to say you made a mistake, and that you are going to do better,” Ms. Rahim said.

… Sharing a Notes app apology does have its pitfalls. If fans suspect an apology isn’t as heartfelt or genuine as its straight-from-my-personal-device format implies, the entire thing could backfire. But even worse is a completely unapologetic apology. After the music-retreat-for-one-percenters known as Fyre Festival proved to be a scam, Ja Rule, its co-organizer, made sure to relinquish himself of blame: “I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT.”

“You want to avoid the Notes app spiral, long and short,” Ms. Rahim said, referring to the age-old tendency to get defensive, blowing out what should be a simple “sorry” into a long and winding tale of excuses.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

— Have you ever given or received a digital apology? Is a digital one just as good as any other form of apology? Why or why not? (If you never received one, how would you feel if you did?)

— What makes a good apology? What’s the best apology you have ever given or received? What happened, and how did you feel afterward? Did the apology help to remedy the situation?

— What makes a bad apology? What was the worst apology you have given or received? Why was it so bad?

— Which celebrity apology in the article do you think was the best? Which was the worst? Do any of the apologies change how you feel about the celebrities who gave them?

— Why are apologies important — for the person who gives them and for the person who receives them? Do you think digital apologies can help strengthen human bonds and relationships, or do they have a corrosive affect? After reading the article, are you more or less likely to give a digital apology in the future?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.