If the path to hell is paved with good intentions, so is the path to making colossally odd iPhone apps. Case in point: Greta Van Susteren’s new app Sorry, which was released in November, is both well-intended and hellacious. Bless her pundit’s heart, Van Susteren has identified a real social problem — the infrequency of good apologies — and attempted to help fix it. Unfortunately, her solution is a strange concept with an even stranger execution: a social network specifically for posting and viewing public apologies.
The app allows people to upload video apologies and to view the video apologies of others; once you watch an apology all the way through, you’re prompted to rate it, choosing from “Great” (a grinning emoji), “Nope” (an angry emoji), or “Meh” (a blasé emoji). Van Susteren appears to be its most active and frequent user; she recently posted a video in front of a small airplane, apologizing to users for “not being in Bangladesh with me!” She explains that she is bringing supplies to a Rohingya refugee camp hospital. “I’m sorry you’re not here with me. It’s absolutely spectacular,” she chirps. It feels more like a generic, slightly braggy video diary that shoehorns in an apology, rather than an actual platform for penance. I’ve tested out plenty of ill-conceived niche apps over the years, including products that truly seem like they’re not for anyone. But this is the first time that even the product’s creator isn’t sure how to use it.
Van Susteren released the app this past November, right as apologies had become more public than ever, as a number of high-profile men had issued statements of regret following reports of sexual harassment and assault. As an app, Sorry almost seemed timely, except that it was so beside the point — there is no upside to siphoning apologies onto their own platform. The app claims that it “teaches you how to make things right with the ones you’ve wronged,” but the only clear lesson is that releasing a video apology on any platform makes the gesture feel especially like a performance for a crowd instead of a genuine attempt at reconciliation.
It’s therefore unsurprising that most people seem to be using the app to goof off, as that’s about all it’s good for. The majority of my feed on the app shows lighthearted videos of dogs (several featuring a yellow lab wearing sunglasses) or people who are clearly using the app as a joke (including one man begging political consultant Peter Daou and Twitter personality Eric Garland to unblock him on Twitter, and a Chapo Trap House cohost kidding around about destroying a venue’s green room). Most of the videos have very small audiences, almost always under 100 users. The highest view count I could find is on an entry titled “Sorry for Clicking This 1,000 Times.” It has 1,068 views.
Van Susteren is currently also promoting Everything You Need to Know About Social Media, a book she wrote to help baby boomers who don’t feel comfortable with today’s popular online platforms, so it’s ironic that she created a product so obviously emblematic of a boomer not getting technology. There was never a chance in hell that this app would take off, in my opinion (although I’ve been wrong about weird niche apps before — I had no idea that Jeremy Renner’s app, called “Jeremy Renner,” would become one of the most dramatic digital forums of all time). But this is a particularly bad time to launch this bad app, because it trivializes apologies at a time when they are frequently overdue and deeply underwhelming.