Authentically Natural in the World of Social Media

Curator's Note

In the digital age we live in, many young women and men who are considering embracing their natural hair texture, also known as “going natural,” may go to YouTube or social media for suggestions and tips about products to use, hairstyles, and other general questions. These platforms, which exemplify Bandura’s(1977) social learning theory, have become spaces where many people have observed and adopted practices and attitudes based off of the model of behavior and images of “natural hair gurus” that have arisen on platforms such as YouTube and websites like BlackGirlLongHair, Curly Nikki, and Natural Hair Rules.Through videoed demonstrations of their personal hair regimens and suggestions, these “gurus,” who are generally not licensed hairstylists, offer invaluable advice and guidance. Additionally, the audience on these platforms actively interact with each other, creating a vibrant group known as the “natural hair community.”

Yet within this community, social media influencers may also provide strict and sometimes conflicting suggestions regarding hair maintenance techniques, avoidance of chemical-based products, and hair trends that promote hair growth. Despite the “rules” and guidelines “adopted” on these platforms, some members of the natural hair community have been deterred and driven away from their desire to be part of the community or a willingness to work with their natural hair at all. This, in turn, has led to questions of their authenticity in the "natural hair community" based on the products they use, hairstyles, and methods they adopt, or even choosing to dye their hair. As with any learning experience, when one encounters persistent negativity and/or conflicting information, the desire to continue can wane.

For a community that advocates garnering more people to embrace their natural hair, somehow this idea of “natural” has become mired in rhetoric and restrictions that have made a positive and empowering experience a very negative one. Black women may follow these natural hair platforms, as Robinson (2011) noted, to seek motivation and knowledge on hair management techniques from communication with others. To that end, if many in this community focused more on sharing ideas as suggestions – and not absolutes – to assist along one’s individual hair journey, while also being less critical, then it would feel more like the community desired, embracing its diversity and the authenticity of its members



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