When I entered this industry, everything that was happening was so new and fresh, especially the evolution of change that Sassoon was creating which united everyone. There was so much buzz and support for each other as hairdressers. It was revolutionary—history in the making—and we all felt it and wanted to be a part of it.
Social media has changed that. It’s created a competitive environment—who has more likes, friends, followers, pins—whose work is better, cooler. While social media is positive in so many ways, it’s also an environment with no regard for negativity, abuse and intimidation. In fact, it can be negative, abusive and intimidating. And because we like to say and do things a little differently at Sam Villa®, we are taking a stand on this trend that is pulling our community apart. We are advocating a movement to communicate in a more thoughtful and respectful way to promote growth and evolution in the industry: #ArtistsSupportingArtists.
If you have had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Carruthers, you have experienced his passion for promoting people to be the best versions of themselves—and you won’t be surprised that he is the driving force behind this movement.
Sam: Tell us about how this idea came to fruition.
Andrew: The general climate of communication has shifted in a titanic way in the past 10-15 years. The methods of distribution and consumption of information, visual art and music are primarily digital, as well as the conversations around those mediums. The world has truly become an open forum where anyone and everyone can access and share anything they want at the touch of a button. Social media in particular has become a war zone of artistic criticism—unrequested criticism at that. It seems that the more brutal the attack, the more follow-up comments or likes the verbal pummeling receives, which in turn fuels more of this type of abusive action. The reason these comments fly from people’s fingertips so easily is that the computer screen or smart phone sitting in front of them has no emotion. In that moment, it’s so easy to forget that the person on the receiving end is just that—a living, breathing human with feelings.
Sam: Good point. When people are typing, they’re rarely thinking about how their comment will actually affect the recipient, and in most cases would probably not even think about making the same comment in person.
Andrew: Especially to artists who tend to have a heart the size of the sun and those with a level of insecurity around their work. Overcoming that insecurity to place their art (which for most is a part of their heart and soul) on a social media platform for the world to see is an act of courage deserving of respect and support—not mindless attacks.
Sam: Absolutely! I was recently approached by a student, who per the suggestion of her mentor was sharing her work on social media to build her personal brand. She received some comments that were supportive, but unfortunately the intensity of the negative feedback was undeniable and she expressed genuine concern to me about her future in the hair industry. The thoughtless commentary by her peers had shaken her confidence enough that she was prepared to drop out of school and look at different career opportunities. What?! This can’t happen! We are an industry of amazing people who should be fostering young students’ creativity and success. I had to try to salvage this young student’s passion and confidence, so I advised that she use the negativity as fuel to get even better—but it shouldn’t have to get that far.
Andrew: That’s why we love you, Sammy! There are many stylists that come to the artist’s defense in these moments and we applaud you. The retort when the aggressor is called out is often, “I’m entitled to my opinion.” We actually agree that everyone is entitled to an opinion and it’s part of the risk all artists take when posting any of their work in a public forum. However, consider taking responsibility for the emotional wake you leave regarding how that opinion is voiced. Ask yourself, “What is my intention with this comment?” Is it to break someone else down? Is it to get more followers by picking a fight? Is it just to vent some personal frustration? Or is it to help a fellow artist grow? What is the value of a comment such as, “I hate it” or “That’s hideous?” It adds nothing to the conversation but definitely has the potential to cause pain.
Sam: It’s comes down to artists supporting artists. On our own page we’ve had comments like, “That’s so ugly” or “Your model should be shot for wearing that fringe.” But we’ve had posts where people chime in with thoughtful feedback such as, “I’d like it better if it wasn’t as thin at the bottom” or “If you want to blend that fade a little more, I would suggest…” We love this type of feedback because it’s constructive!
Andrew: Look at the difference between the two. Both convey the opinion that the person is not a fan of what they see, but the first example is purely emotional and has no real value to the person on the receiving end. The latter creates conversation, provides opportunity for discovery and doesn’t carry an emotional punch in the gut with it.
Sam: So Andrew, what can stylists do to be more mindful?
Andrew: We are not proposing that everyone gets a Pulitzer Prize for every Instagram post or YouTube video—no one grows in that environment. One of the positive gifts of our digital age is the ability to connect across continents and be influenced and inspired by others. All we are asking is that we communicate with the same level of respect that we would if the person was standing next to us.
Sam: At Sam Villa, we are happy to take the first step in improving our community. Our entire family has pledged that they will monitor their intentions in their communication—both digitally and in person. We believe in the power of communication so strongly that we start all of our Artistic Summits with a review of communication guidelines and make personal commitments to ourselves and each other to give feedback that has value without emotional energy behind it (which can be challenging when you have a room full of passionate artists).
Here’s how you can join us: Start with the simple step of taking a look at how you represent yourself currently in your communication and check in to see if it’s congruent with who you really are. Slow down and be more thoughtful of how you interact with others—both digitally and in person. We would also love to see you add #ArtistsSupportingArtists to comments and posts where you see positive interaction happening.
Let’s ALL aspire for more. Let’s band TOGETHER to upgrade our industry regardless of company, product, brand, person, tribe or team! Let’s compliment each other and help one another flourish in a positive environment in an industry with the sole purpose of creating BEAUTY—on the inside and out.
About: Sam Villa is founding partner of the Sam Villa brand (Allvus, LLC), designed to bring “More Sam to More People.” The educational world of this Favorite Platform Artist and Educator (2012, 2011 and 2007), Favorite Overall Educator of the Year (2015) and Education Artistic Director for Redken 5th Avenue, can be experienced on www.samvilla.com.