Making Amends in the Digital Age
The dialogue surrounding female empowerment is prevalent now more than ever, and inspirational women are taking the world by storm. They write books, give speeches, and encourage ladies across the globe to be the strongest female community we can be.
In spite of this, woman-on-woman bullying seems to be everywhere. Every woman I know has a story about the "mean girl", every woman I know has discovered people talking behind their backs, and every woman I know has developed a permanent insecurity over someone's harsh words. The internet makes it easier than ever to ruin someone's day...but it also makes it easier to make amends.
I remember the first time a girl was mean to me. I was 12 years old, and I logged into Myspace (lol) to messages from a friend-of-a-friend saying nasty things to me. Turns out, her boyfriend had broken up with her and she thought he and I were an item (we weren't). A few weeks later, she sent me another message apologizing for her rash behavior.
Everyone migrated to Facebook shortly afterward, and at 14 an acquaintance wrongly assumed that a post I made was about her (it wasn't) — snarky messages ensued. A few months later, she apologized.
Flash forward to high school, where at 16 a boy spread rumors when I wouldn't date him. I logged on to a multitude of messages from girls saying the meanest things because they assumed everything to be true. These girls were several years older than me and I didn't know them, but after taking someone's word about a stranger they felt the need to lash out. Crazily enough, about half of those girls apologized too — despite the fact that I would likely never cross paths with them.
Of course, these aren't the only times I've gotten my feelings hurt by a woman. From girls who shared my interest in a boy to girls that were mean because we had a mutual BFF to the girl at my part-time job who was mean for reasons that remain unknown, it happens.
However, after the clarification that time provides, these unresolved incidents aren't what I remember. What I do remember is the multiple strong women who were mature enough to admit they were wrong — especially when nothing was in it for them.
Apologizing is hard. I know that because I've done my fair share of things that required an apology. I'm also sure I've done my fair share of things things that were so self-centered I haven't realized I was in the wrong, so I sometimes send a blanket "I'm sorry" to the universe for mistakes I've yet to remember.
Making amends is a hard choice — but the digital age also makes it an optional one. Social media allows us to send a direct yet impersonal message and then block someone if we'd like to forget they exist. In the nature of this new reality, there's not a pressing need to make things right.
I've never become close with these girls — most of them I don't know aside from the occasional Instagram. However, because of their decision to be kind without incentive, I will remember their names. As a homeschooled kid, these girls didn't see me in the halls every day, nor would they ever need to acknowledge me in public. Still, they apologized.
People being mean sucks. I will always remember that sinking feeling of reading harsh words on the screen. But after all this time, what I remember more is the integrity of the women who apologized when they didn't have to, and how that changed the narrative of the story entirely.