How to Deal With Posting Something You Regret

It’s not as simple as just hitting delete

Alexandra Samuel
Forge
Published in
4 min readJan 23, 2020

--

Photo: laflor/Getty Images

TThe smart-ass tweet. The intemperate blog post. The video rant. The indiscreet selfie. If you’ve been online for more than five minutes, then the odds are good that at some point, you’ve posted something you now regret.

But now, of course, that regrettable post is part of your permanent digital footprint, and undoing the damage isn’t as simple as just hitting delete.

So how do you apologize, or otherwise clean up your own mess?

Wait, do you really need to apologize?

Just because some people are angry at you online doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong. Sometimes online outrage is simply a reflection of digital mob mentality: The people you’ve angered are people who hated you already, even if they didn’t know they hated you. When the feminist writer Anita Sarkeesian produced a series of videos critiquing misogyny in video games, she became the target of the vicious, violent backlash that ultimately became known as Gamergate. But that reaction merely underlined the validity of Sarkeesian’s critique.

But sometimes, people’s anger really is a result of insensitivity on your part. One recent example: The TV star Gina Rodriguez’s Instagram video in which she sang along to a song that included the N-word. People were upset and offended, and their responses were useful signals that Rodriguez ought to think more carefully about her actions.

It’s not always easy to see if an apology is warranted when you’re at the the center of a social media firestorm, and it can be just as challenging to think straight when a half-dozen “friends” are piling on in the comments thread on your latest Insta post. A good test is to think about how you’ll feel when you look back on this post in five or 10 years: Will you feel better if your response shows you standing firm, or if it shows you reconsidering and acknowledging error or insensitivity?

How to say sorry

If you decide that an apology is warranted, fight the temptation to explain the reasoning behind your original offense. It almost always ends up reading as self-justification or defensiveness…

--

--

Alexandra Samuel
Forge
Writer for

Speaker on hybrid & remote work. Author, Remote Inc. Contributor to Wall Street Journal & Harvard Business Review. https://AlexandraSamuel.com/newsletter