“The Changes of Communication in a Social Media Era”

Tonya V. Hall, Student Writer

I never thought I would be at the age to say this but, the boy has times changed! I was speaking with my Gen-Z aged daughter the other day having a conversation regarding a few different topics. While engaging with her, I felt as if something were missing. As a hairstylist, I was taken back to a time when these conversations would have taken place in an entirely different setting. What was missing was the aroma of chemical services from frying and dyeing hair; the sounds of blow dryers racing amongst stylists to see who can whip the best hairdo out; shampoo techs cleaning shampoo bowls while little girls getting their first press and curl; new and old clients coming in and out adding their own two cents into an already lively debate. As a child of the ’90s, this conversion would have occurred amongst an array of other women that might or might not share my opinions, but the feedback was appreciated and you might have learned a thing or two. It was a place where open and honest communication created an atmosphere that allowed family members and members of the community to express their differences as well as love and admiration for one another.

“African American people had limitations on what public space they could frequent, let alone hang out, and barbershops were those spaces where African Americans could gather free from surveillance from a larger white public,” says Dr. Quincy T. Mills, author of Cutting Along the Color Line: Black Barbers and Barber Shops in America.

This type of unity is not new to African American cultures, its history is something that can be dated back to churches. The need for a safe haven to express your opinions and be supplied with feedback is the way we express socio-economics and cultural diversity amongst ourselves. This is what these institutions stood for and meant to our greater community.

I’m aware that this outlook more than likely makes me seem outdated, and heaven knows I don’t intend to be another Gen-Xer waving my fist angrily at Father Time, but I have found it interesting how the increasing usage of social media has changed what once was a social norm to disagree and debate in a buoyant fashion a taboo. Between the algorithms and highly specified interests, we have tended to migrate towards people who are more like-minded, where disagreements feel few and far in between, where when things get too heated we can just block the “annoying” user. We have pushed for diversity, in sexuality, religious views, in gender but we have neglected the diversity of opinion. Having a difference of opinion is more like having a target on your back than being unique and different. This has taken away the true usage of a community of different values that once challenged you to engage with actual people and to learn from them. 

Social media has changed the way stylists and barbers deal with customers. The days of sitting around and exchanging stories and learning makeup tips, homemaking tips, or relationship advice from a group of diverse women have gone from intimate face-to-face interactions to the comment sections of TikTok. Human contact and conversation are becoming relics of the past. You receive your gossip from places such as The ShadeRoom, HollywoodOnLock, Baller Alert, and makeup tips from the Kardashians and other online content creators. 

Where social media platforms such as Facebook were originally created years ago for college studies to gather outside of class to collaborate and exchange ideas about class assignments, has now done the opposite. What we would like to feel is entertainment, these sites are not just that. It seems to have turned into a way for narcissists to become more narcissistic and for people to back up their ideas. Stretching the limits of “free speech.” This is just an opinion of a hairstylist that has lived through different generations of communication. Social media and the usage of smartphones have made the world feel smaller and that we’re closer than ever, yet if you ask me, we feel worlds apart.