Joy Cho of ‘Oh Joy!’: “Be a role model for kindness”

Be a role model for kindness. People respond to kindness with more kindness. I’m always trying to share on social media the ways that we can be kind in everyday situations or share with followers how I’m teaching my kids to deal with unkind people or situations. If those who follow you see how you […]

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Be a role model for kindness. People respond to kindness with more kindness. I’m always trying to share on social media the ways that we can be kind in everyday situations or share with followers how I’m teaching my kids to deal with unkind people or situations. If those who follow you see how you react even in adversity, they’ll be more likely to respect you for it and try to bring some of those qualities into their life, as well. For me, that’s natural for my brand because Oh Joy! is all about joy, happiness and turning someone’s day around if they’re having a crumby day. If you make positivity a focal point for what you do — there’s less of an opportunity for someone to say something negative.

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 Joy Deangdeelert Cho.

Joy Deangdeelert Cho is a graphic designer, blogger, food enthusiast, and the founder and editor of Oh Joy. Launched in September 2005, the Oh Joy blog covers inspiration and design with a focus on Joy’s favorite things: design, fashion, food, and joyful moments from her everyday life.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I’m Joy Cho, Founder & Creative Director of the lifestyle brand and design studio, Oh Joy! Oh Joy! creates a variety of creative content for ideas on everything from fashion to home décor, which we share daily on social media. We design a variety of licensed products in the home, travel and kids categories that bring joy to everyday living. I’ve published 3 books to date and am excited to launch 3 children’s books in 2020. I also have an online academy for budding entrepreneurs where I give them applicable advice on how they can take their small businesses to the next level.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

During the Obama’s last year in office, I received a call from The White House that Michelle Obama wanted me to design the logo for the Easter Egg Roll (their annual Easter event). I was sure they had called the wrong person and couldn’t possibly be trying to contact me. Long story short is that I did end up designing the logo and branding for the event which was prominently seen everywhere at the event. Plus, my family was invited to attend the event at the White House where we met The President and First Lady. I have that photo framed and hung on a wall in my house ☺

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?

When I first started my company, it was initially a design company where I did branding, website design and packaging design for various clients. I was building up my clientele and getting into the swing of things when, but still wasn’t in a position where I couldn’t be too picky about the work that I took. I was moving across the country with my husband and every dollar counted so I needed all the freelance work I could get. I was approached by a potential client to design something for a funeral home which felt completely the opposite of my design style and the clients I took on. It didn’t feel like a match at all, but I decided to accept the job because I needed the money and couldn’t say no. When I submitted my work, the client absolutely hated it. I had never had a client who was so unhappy. There was a lot of back and forth where I tried to appease them and get them to a place where they would love my work, but we couldn’t get there. I was actually fired from the job…for my first (and only!) time. Looking back, I didn’t give it a fair shot because I thought I could just wing it. I didn’t put my full heart into it because it wasn’t the type of client I was excited about. From that experience, I learned that if I’m going to say yes to something, I’m going to need to put my whole heart into it and if I now know that if I can’t put my heart into it, it will be reflected in my work.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, I’m working on a ton of new projects for 2020. One I’m particularly excited about is a series of children’s books I’m publishing with Scholastic. They each focus on characteristics that I feel are important for us to instill in children at an early age to help them form into kind, strong, and creative adults. The first book is about curiosity, the second is about feelings, and the third is about kindness. Each book tells a story in a way that young kids can understand. Parents can read them to newborns and toddlers to start educating them on these 3 important characteristics, and then they can transition as practice books for early readers to read themselves.

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 can recall perhaps the worse experience for me, which took place in the earlier social days before it was widely accepted that bloggers were paid for large campaigns (now, no one thinks twice that bloggers or influencers should earn money from these partnerships). I signed on to do a multi-part campaign with a very large company that owned a bunch of different brands. I was excited about the topic and the content we came up with and had no idea that the wrath of the Internet was about to fall down on me. On my first sponsored post of this series, I got so much crap from my followers — not about the creative content we created and posted, but about the parent company and some of their past history.

After reading some of the harsh comments on the feed, I sat on the ground and cried for hours. I wasn’t prepared for it. It shocked me that people could be so mean to me after having mostly positive conversations on my blog previously, and I didn’t know how to handle it. My gut reaction was to cancel the contract, give the brand their money back, and make it go away. However, as I typically do when I feel conflicted, I consulted my husband who gave me some great advice. He reminded me that not everyone is going to like everything I do. And that only increases as your brand or your public presence grows. As long as I partner with brands I believe in, I can be proud to stand behind my work. I also learned from that incident how important it is to do your research before committing to working with a brand. Sometimes companies have past lawsuits or controversial news in the media. And even though your content (or you as a person) may not be connected to that negativity, people will unfortunately still tie it to you.

What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?

I like to talk to people who know me personally to get some reassurance not to take the negativity personal. I’m one of those people who assume everyone is a nice person. I follow the old adage, “If you don’t have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But I’ve learned over time that if someone has something negative say, it’s more of a reflection of themselves and what is going on in his or her life. People are acting out their own inner issues by posting something negatively to you on your public feed. It’s sort of like how I know when I’m in a bad mood, my road rage is worse and I find myself annoyed with anything and everything.

There were earlier parts of my career when I wanted to write back to every person to explain or defend myself. However, I realized that depending on what it is, if it’s just a difference of opinion or lifestyle, whatever I say will not change someone’s mind. The only time I do respond to a negative comment is if there is an inaccuracy in what they are saying. Thankfully, I don’t get as much negativity these days, but if I do, I try to respond in the kindest way possible because I want people to realize that they don’t need to be that way.

Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?

Honestly, I’ve never posted a negative comment on social media. I know what it’s like to receive negative comments, and I would never do that to someone else.

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?

No matter how long you’ve been doing something on social media, I don’t think there’s anyone who is unaffected by a negative comment. You either get to a point where you don’t read comments anymore or become more used to as you grown your social media brand and presence. Just imagine about how you would feel if someone said something negative to your mom or to your child. If you think about how they feel or how it would affect them, you’d think twice and likely not post something hurtful. It’s one thing to have a conversation or have a differing opinion on a particular topic, but I don’t know what good a purely negative comment will do. Put yourself in that person’s place and decide if you still feel it’s worth your time doing that.

The ironic thing is that even though the negative comment can be 1 of 300 comments, that 1 negative comment will be the one that stands out and sticks in the mind of the person it’s been directed towards. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at moving on, understanding the bigger picture, and focusing more on the positive aspects of social media. You can’t let yourself get trapped in anyone else’s negativity.

Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?

The difference is that the person writing the negative comment online would never say that to your face. In person, someone might not agree with you and want to have a conversation about it, but I guarantee the conversation would be much more thoughtful and nuanced. Can you imagine someone simply walking down street and saying something negative or hurtful to a stranger?

What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?

I’m a 40 year old woman who is very aware of the world of social media since I have been doing this job for a long time so I consciously choose what I put up and how to respond when needed. However, there are people who are younger and less seasoned who can’t snap out of those negative situations like I have learned to do over time. It’s very much a form of bullying and meanness towards someone — deserving or not — and not everyone knows how to handle it. It most certainly can have negative effects like anxiety or depression if you let things get to you or you don’t know how to cope with it. I don’t encourage someone in this field to continue if they’re feeling the effects of negativity all the time. Understand that it does take a while to build up tough skin. And as long as you still feel inspired by the online space and working in it, keep pushing to share your positive voice out there.

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?

First, social media is relatively anonymous. People are flexing their trolling muscles in the comfort of their home. Oftentimes, their names are not attached to their accounts, which contributes to their anonymous profile. Second, any trolling is a reflection on that person’s confidence and the events going on in their life. When you have a bad day, bad week, or bad attitude, it can often reflect in how you treat other (in real life or virtually). Third, there’s this assumption — especially for accounts that have a lot of followers — that the person is never going to see your comment. Most people don’t think I’m reading the comments on my social media, but I personally read every comment that comes through. I can’t speak for everyone — there are people who have millions of followers and may not ever read them. But people feel they can say whatever they want because it will go unnoticed.

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?

1. Be a role model for kindness. People respond to kindness with more kindness. I’m always trying to share on social media the ways that we can be kind in everyday situations or share with followers how I’m teaching my kids to deal with unkind people or situations. If those who follow you see how you react even in adversity, they’ll be more likely to respect you for it and try to bring some of those qualities into their life, as well. For me, that’s natural for my brand because Oh Joy! is all about joy, happiness and turning someone’s day around if they’re having a crumby day. If you make positivity a focal point for what you do — there’s less of an opportunity for someone to say something negative.

2. Kill them with kindness. If you sense a lack of kindness online, you may feel the urge to fight back, respond and defend yourself or others, or complain about someone else’s poor attitude. But if you do that, you are letting that person win. If you are dealing with a direct comment towards you, take a step back and decide if you need to respond. Oftentimes you don’t need to because nothing you can say will appease that person’s point of view. If you feel as though there is something you must say, respond in the sweetest way possible (and I mean make it sugary sweet) and they’ll likely see how their comment was unnecessary. Every so often, I get a sarcastic or snarky comment. Part of me wants to give a similar comment back or justify myself in some way. Then I think through it and convince myself otherwise. I will respond as if I have nothing negative to say. This has resulted in an apology — people aren’t trying to be mean, they are just responding to something that bothered them without considering the aftereffects.

3. Take a break. If you think being on social media is making you cranky, angry, jealous, or putting you in a comparison trap with people you follow, take a break from it. People will continue to share what they’re sharing and that person cannot control your reaction. Only you can control it. Stay off your phone. Even though it’s my job to be on social media and it’s a big part of my company, I do get stuck comparing myself to others. It’s “the grass is always greener” mentality that we tend to feel. When this happens, I just have to put my phone away and take a social media break. Whether your break is for a few hours, a day, a week, or a month, your mental health is way more important than knowing what everyone on your feed is up to at all times.

4. Unfollow. It’s ok to unfollow people who don’t make you feel good and instead fill your feed with people who do make you feel good. Use social media to add to your life, not subtract from it. I’ve been conscious of this so every month, I edit my feed down a bit as needed. Be intentional about it and try to look through it to make sure you’re getting the best experience out of your time on social media.

5. Be intentionally kind in real life. Online life is a reflection (even if a smaller reflection) of your real life. But if you do certain things in real life, you’re often likely to behave similarly online. Make an effort to spread kindness and you’ll see how it changes your perspective on all areas of your life.

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?

Sure, you can use your Freedom of Speech, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be aware of how your comments could be hurtful. If someone is choosing to post something online, they’re opening themselves up to a public domain for people to respond to which takes bravery especially if the topics are very personal. Always keep that in mind.

If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?

The way in which most social media sites are set up today, they’re doing their best to prevent shaming or breeding negativity. You have the ability to delete comments or mark things as spam. These tools weren’t in place in the beginning, but they are now. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything I would add because I feel they put the tools in place for users to adjust their feeds as they see fit. Plus, everyone has complete control over their own social media feeds so you can remove anything at anytime that doesn’t make you feel good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Focus on you and what makes you happy, what brings you joy, and what helps you grow to be a better person. If you do that, the negativity on social media — what you put out or what you receive — will be less and less. We get so caught up in what people think of us — whether it’s real life or online relationships. So let’s shift the focus on being the best person for ourselves, our family, and our friends that we can possibly be.

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 🙂

Will Smith. I was born and raised in Philly, so I always loved that connection. Plus, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was my favorite show growing up…I’ve probably watched every episode multiple times. But, what I love about him is how he’s evolved his life and his career in recent years. He (along with his wife, Jada) have raised kids who are now kind and giving adults. Plus, he now uses his platform to help people realize their best potential. He’s like the life coach you never knew you needed!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram — @ohjoy and for brand news, @ohjoyco

Facebook — @ohjoystudio

Twitter — @ohjoy

Pinterest — @ohjoy

YouTube — @ohjoy

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