“5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant Place” With Loreen Hwang
I think that verbal arguments that are face to face are worse because you are also not just randomly walking up to a stranger saying something to hurt them. You are arguing about a real situation that has happened. Sometimes in the moment you don’t think out your words clearly and could say something in the heat of the moment. Online you are reading something and you don’t have to respond right away. You can put your phone away, think about it and respond later. Usually, when someone attacks you online it is someone with a private profile that is probably trolling many accounts to try to stir the pot or just to be mean. If you step back from the situation and think about it the person who is online is unhappy with themselves and aren’t in a good place in their lives so they want to take it out on someone else. That makes me want to help them find happiness.
As a part of my interview series about the things we can each do to make social media and the internet a kinder and more tolerant place, I had the pleasure to interview Loreen Hwang. Loreen is a luxury lifestyle blogger/ influencer and philanthropist. She was the brand ambassador for RoC Skincare a Johnson & Johnson brand. Has worked with many brands like Maybelline, Tourism Boards, Diamond Foundry, and many more. Based in Los Angeles she travels looking for the best of the best to share with her audience. She has lived in DC, Istanbul, Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, Utah, and Massachusetts. She has also sat on the board of many children’s charities, not only raising awareness but fundraising for them.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Loreen! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Hi! I was born in Taipei, Taiwan and moved to Southern California as a baby. I loved growing up in California. I then went to boarding school on the east coast. After highschool I attended University in Washington, DC. I came back to LA and worked in biotech with my father which lead me to move to Asia where I lived and worked. My father died about 10 years ago. I knew I didn’t want to work in biotech anymore. I took a year off to figure out what I wanted to do and a friend suggested that in the meantime I start a blog. At that time, blogs were not a thing, social media wasn’t as popular so I was hesitant to start because I didn’t know what a blog was. But I started to write every day 4–5 times a week and in 3 months of writing I was contacted by Johnson & Johnson and was asked to be a brand ambassador for a skincare line. From that moment I realized that a blog could be a job.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There have been so many interesting things that have happened in the last ten years and I am grateful that I get to travel and meet new people everyday. I think the most interesting thing is how my career evolved. When I began, I had no idea what I was doing, there wasn’t such a thing as an influencer sometimes I was called a tastemaker but blogging was just beginning for everyone. I was doing it as a hobby and to get myself doing things again after my dad passed away. I never knew this would be a full time job. It did take a lot of work to get where I am now. There are a lot of us who started that long ago some have grown quite a bit and I have seen a lot of people quit because they don’t realize how much work goes into a blog.
The evolution of social media really took my blog from a small platform to a really large platform. I reach people all around the world and in some countries that I had to look up to see where they were located. I love that the world is so big but social media makes it feel like a community. I really love when people share photos with me of things that I have inspired them to do. Since my following knows my interests they show me foods from their country or ways they celebrate holidays and it makes what I do really fun. I never imagined reaching so many people.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made a lot of mistakes. I don’t know if I would categorize any of them as funny. lol
I think an important lesson for me is that I didn’t know what my value was when I started. I was doing a lot of projects for free until someone told me to start charging. I had no idea what to charge so I would start with $100 then when they would accept with no hesitation I realized that there was real value in what I was doing and I actually had a business. If you don’t value yourself no one is going to. Also, you can’t sit around and try to figure out what you want to do. You need to just do it. You will make mistakes but learn from them because at the end of the day time waits for no one and if you are letting weeks and months pass you could have started creating your own brand.
You also have to know that if you are trying to create something from scratch there are going to be days that are hard that you question yourself. Don’t quit.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Right now I am doing Wellness August. This is a heart project for me because I have noticed how bad things can be in the influencer world. From so called friends pretending to be nice and really backstabbing, to kids who don’t understand that everything that they see on social media isn’t real it’s just a highlight reel. I connect with people because I show my mistakes, I laugh at myself and I try to show my realself.
Wellness for me isn’t just about diet and exercise. It’s about self-care and loving yourself enough to help others love themselves, be kind to one another and be happy. I have a platform where I am reaching people around the world and I want to help them inspire others whether it is a kind word, a hug or just being considerate of someone’s feelings. We live in a time where everyone is on their phones, they are too busy to call and check in to say hi and really make that human connection. I miss that and I hope others do too. I hope that I can inspire to be nice, if you miss someone let them know and remember that self-care isn’t selfish.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Have you ever been publicly shamed or embarrassed on social media? Can you share with our readers what that experience felt like?
I have been shamed and embarrassed on social media and it did not feel good. I had a girl who left me 300 comments on different images calling me ugly and fat and other mean things that I can’t repeat. Even when I had reported her account to Instagram they did not remove it. I reported every single one of her comments and I was disappointed how Instagram had handled the situation because there is no email to contact for severe harassment like that. It really made me feel awful and violated. I cried when I was reading the comments. They came as a surprise and really made me feel terrible.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
I called my best friend who lives on the other side of the world and cried. I sent her all the screenshots of the comments and she told me, “why do you care what this girl thinks?”. I thought about it and realized that this girl had spent over three hours leaving these comments to try to hurt me and I shouldn’t let her get the satisfaction by feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to turn my experience into a positive one. I am really against online bullying and when I see people leave mean comments on friends photos I will respond to the commenter in a kind way. In my experience people will feel bad afterwards and apologize and I hope they learn from it. We never know what kind of day the other person has had or what they have been through so responding in a kind way gets a better response rather than attacking them.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
I have never made a mean comment on social media. When I comment I always try to compliment someone and try to support. I have been through how it feels and wouldn’t want to make someone else feel like that. If I don’t have something supportive or kind to say then I won’t comment at all. At the end of the day you have to go to sleep knowing what kind of person you are.
When one reads the comments on Youtube or Instagram, or the trending topics on Twitter, a great percentage of them are critical, harsh, and hurtful. The people writing the comments may feel like they are simply tapping buttons on a keyboard, but to the one on the receiving end of the comment, it is very different. This may be intuitive, but I feel that it will be instructive to spell it out. Can you help illustrate to our readers what the recipient of a public online critique might be feeling?
I think that YouTubers get the meanest comments and part of the reason is people are watching videos and trying to critique them. I think that people who are saying harsh things also don’t think it out because they aren’t realizing that the recipient is a real person who has feelings. I think now in the world of social media someone who has a large following has thicker skin to mean comments rather than kids who are getting bullied online. I think that is the real issue. If someone is harassing me online I won’t take it to heart anymore because I know they are just looking to be mean. But if my friends kid is getting mean comments on their images from classmates that’s a whole other story. No matter what you tell a kid they have a harder time shaking it off. I have a few younger kids in my audience who have DMed me asking me for advice and it breaks my heart to hear how mean kids can be. I always respond and I make sure to let them know that it’s really not about them that the person who is bullying them is not happy. If they were they wouldn’t be mean to others.
Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
Now that I have dealt with such a terrible experience I think that verbal arguments that are face to face are worse because you are also not just randomly walking up to a stranger saying something to hurt them. You are arguing about a real situation that has happened. Sometimes in the moment you don’t think out your words clearly and could say something in the heat of the moment. Online you are reading something and you don’t have to respond right away. You can put your phone away, think about it and respond later.
Usually, when someone attacks you online it is someone with a private profile that is probably trolling many accounts to try to stir the pot or just to be mean. If you step back from the situation and think about it the person who is online is unhappy with themselves and aren’t in a good place in their lives so they want to take it out on someone else. That makes me want to help them find happiness.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
I have had friends who get a lot of mean comments and that makes them feel really bad. To the point where they don’t want to post on social media anymore. That makes me upset because you shouldn’t have to change what you want to share with your audience because a few people have left awful comments. I don’t let people have that power over me. I always tell my friends to take their power back and not care.
Many people who troll others online, or who leave harsh comments, can likely be kind and sweet people in “real life”. These people would likely never publicly shout at someone in a room filled with 100 people. Yet, on social media, when you embarrass someone, you are doing it in front of thousands of even millions of people, and it is out there forever. Can you give 3 or 4 reasons why social media tends to bring out the worst in people; why people are meaner online than they are in person?
When others are purposefully being mean to someone on social media it’s easier because they are hiding behind a keyboard. They don’t have to face the consequences if they said something awful to someone’s face. I think that’s really it. It’s easy to make a fake account and be anonymous. To me it’s a really cowardly act to attack others online using fake profiles or even real ones. If you wouldn’t say something to some in real life than don’t say it online. We are all humans and all the same. In a world full of hate, we need to be love.
If you had the power to influence thousands of people about how to best comment and interact online, what would you suggest to them? What are your “5 things we should each do to help make social media and the internet, a kinder and more tolerant place”? Can you give a story or an example for each?
When it comes to being kind online it’s really simple. Don’t give negative comments power. If someone is going from page to page just criticizing by reacting to their comments you give those the negativity power. Sometimes it’s better to not react. Behaving online should be the same if you were face to face with someone.
Five things I would suggest to people are:
- Think before commenting. Words hurt. When you say something that is hurtful and mean it can stay with someone especially adolescents. It’s like if you nail something in a wall and you pull out the nail the hole is still there. It’s the same with words, you can apologize but sometimes those words leave scars.
- Be Kind. It takes more effort to make a mean comment on someone’s page than to just ignore it. If you don’t like someone’s post unfollow them. It’s that easy. If it’s a friend and you are scared to unfollow because you think they will get mad then hide their posts.
- Lead by example. If you are a parent of a child who bullies teach them in a way they understand. Punishing a kid will not resolve it. Talk to them, teach them and understand why they are doing it. If you see bullying online speak up but choose your words don’t turn it into an argument. You’ll feel better at the end of the day by being nice even if someone else isn’t. Report accounts that are harassing or bullying.
- Before you react, pause. If you read a comment on your own page or someone else’s that makes you angry. Take a moment to walk away, think about it. The chances of you still being mad in an hour is unlikely. If you still feel compelled to comment don’t criticize.
- Kindness is powerful. Saying a kind word takes nothing from you and may change someone’s day or life. Saying a kind word may inspire others to do the same. Being nice is easy it takes more effort to be mean.
Freedom of speech prohibits censorship in the public square. Do you think that applies to social media? Do American citizens have a right to say whatever they want within the confines of a social media platform owned by a private enterprise?
I don’t think freedom of speech should be taken away. I also don’t want people to think that means it’s ok to be rude to others online. I think common courtesy and kindness should always be a thing. I think freedom of expression is great and I don’t think that is the same as people bullying others online. I do think that these platforms need to have better ways to report abusive content. If that means having an email that people can send screenshots to or even a page to fill out a report on a profile. I also think that platforms should close accounts of people bullying and harassing others. They shouldn’t allow them to have an account at all.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
I think there should be a way for parents to have access to their children’s social accounts. I know that many of my friends have passwords for their kids accounts but if their child changes the password there is no way of getting into the account. There should also be better filters for settings. If you could filter out certain words that would be helpful to stop cyber bullying.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Everything can change in just one day.
That resonates with me because you should really work for what you want. If you are in a job that you are unhappy in take the chance and find something you love. Be true to yourself, work hard because in the end every can change in a day and success can come your way. Don’t give up because hard work pays off. Better to live a life of oh wells than what ifs.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Richard Branson, Elon Musk or Bill Gates because I just love how they are innovators and how they give back to the community. These three are inspiring people who are successful because they are thought leaders in their industry and in the way they help communities. All of them have amazing organizations that give back to help it education, healthcare and the environment.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow my on Instagram @coucoujolieblog and on Facebook Coucou Jolie.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!