One of the worst emotions to feel is guilt. It fills your stomach with sand and molasses, creating an indescribably viscous and heavy feeling in your gut. If there was a feeling opposite to butterflies in your stomach, guilt would be its most appropriate placeholder. Almost worse is the want for forgiveness, feeling uncertain of whether it can be achieved or what it will take. In the present day, forgiveness is hard to seek and to give due to the rise of social media.
Text is harder to read than a face or a situation. As empathetic beings, there is specific underlying tension and attitudes we can scrutinize without even consciously trying. We can tell when someone is sad, happy, annoyed, anxious, and anything in between often just by looking at their face or hearing their voice. Written language is much harder to interpret, as it depends on so many factors. How well can someone articulate their ideas and feelings on paper? How is their present state of mind affecting the accuracy of their words? How much time did they spend writing this? How good is this person’s audience at reading between the lines? These are but a few questions to keep in mind when looking at anything posted on social media, yet its stakes grow when the poster in question is seeking forgiveness. Unfortunately, we are not short on misbehaviors as a society. This ranges from petty theft all the way to unconsensual sexual acts, and these misdeeds have a way of finding their way to the public eye. When someone apologizes, how do we know whether they are genuine? At what point do we draw the line between accepting their humility and being overwhelmed by the force of their actions? There are unending moral questions to ask, which does not blend well with the potential for someone’s words to be less articulate than the situation calls for. Without face-to-face social cues, it becomes even harder to scrutinize a situation accurately.
Seeking forgiveness is troublesome, yet it is important to remember that the people in charge of extending a forgiving hand also have heavy questions and concerns to ask themselves. Whether these are questions to forgive authority figures, celebrities, or any other person who has a strong enough presence online, the question of forgiveness is not going to disappear any time soon. I’m very interested to see whether society becomes more or less forgiving as a whole due to the abundant number of variables impacting its exchange.