Fast Braid Friday
How one of my favorite Instagram hashtags embodies the definition of a digital community.
Running is tough. The mental and physical stress you endure on a run can be a lot. I know first hand how mentally challenging running is, especially competitively. I am a collegiate distance runner and run for my school’s cross country and track team. I also ran all throughout high school, and honestly have been a runner my whole life. With that said I’d say I know a lot about it. The toughest part about running for me is the mental aspect, and so many people would agree. I am always looking for new things to try to help me calm my nerves before a race, or even something as small as giving me a little confidence boost during a workout.
Once I got to college my teammates all shared things that they did to help with their running. One of my best friends on the team told us about this professional runner who has this thing she does where she does Fast Braid Friday. Without knowing what it was at the time I put my hair up into braids before our first race of the season and went along with it. One of my teammates snapped a picture and posted it on her instagram story and I thought nothing of it. Little did I know that the pro runner re-published it and directly messaged my friend back wishing our team good luck.
Once I got back to campus I eagerly searched up the hashtag #FASTBRAIDFRIDAY. I had no idea what would pop up. However what popped up was hundreds of posts of girls with their hair in some form of a braid ready to conquer whatever their run, workout, or race threw at them. I looked further into it and found out that a professional runner, Colleen Quigley, created this hashtag to encourage girls to run and be strong athletes. I knew about Quigley before, and knew she was an amazing runner and most famous for the steeplechase. What she had started as a motivational braid for herself to have more confidence, quickly changed into a huge hashtag and following.
Originally called french braid Friday, the trend quickly turned into fast braid Friday. Every Friday runners of all ages will braid up their hair and post pictures with a braid. It has formed into a community for people to be a part of and see that they are not alone. This is a perfect example of a digital community.
Anything you want to find, any community you want to be a part of, it is online.
The Digital Public
The digital public sphere is an online community that has other sub communities within it. The digital community is like its own country, with states and a ton of working parts within it. Humans have created a whole world that you can interact with right in the palm of your hand. You do not need to travel, all you have to do is unlock your phone. “Digital is everywhere and nowhere, indistinguishable from other aspects of the material world and the way we live in it” (Jacobs). The amount of things you can do on the internet are never ending. This public sphere is huge and there are so many communities within the online world as a whole. Anything you want to find, any community you want to be a part of, it is online. There are no words to deceive how big the digital public is.
According to a study about sports and digital media, “in the past 15 years sport scholars have expressed an increased interest in public sociology, while the rapid acceleration of digital media has led to significant shifts in the sport media landscape” (Norman). This shows how the digital sphere is influencing the way that sports are being portrayed on social media. Sports coverage has reached new heights with social media. Athletes can reach their fan base on a personal level with social media. Before social media, this was not possible; the only way that athletes could “connect” would be in person or through the TV screen. If you were lucky enough to go see your favorite athlete compete then you maybe get the chance to connect to them. The chances were slim to none. Now with the digital public, the athletes create their own communities to relate and get to know their fanbase. According to a study done by Australian college professors , sports teams also use social media to advertise because of the relationships social media allows the athletes to have with their fans (Naraine). This is another example of how vital social media communities are for sports teams and athletes. The communities they create bring in so much extra content and money for the athletes. Additionally, the communities that they create can also encourage and motivate people, as it is for the Fast Braid Friday community. Colleen Quigley has successfully done so with her fan base.
A tutorial on Quigley's favorite Fast Braid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLfjBQuYwZ4
Further Than Running
Quigley created a community that inspires so many people, including myself. This is what the digital public can do: create communities that are empowering. The community goes even further than just a hashtag, it even has its own instagram account. This runner, turned social media influencer, has created a brand for herself. This is what the digital public can do, it helps create a small idea into something bigger, achieve goals, and make ideas come to life. A simple act of Quigley putting her hair in braids for some motivation, has turned into a huge community. She probably never thought that this would happen from a simple act of braiding her hair, but here she is today with two hundred twenty three thousand instagram followers.
The Fast Braid Friday Community has inspired solo athletes and even full teams. This can be shown in all of the posts that the hashtag is used, or the posts with the instagram account tagged. For example one of the top posts that can be found in the hashtag is tagged in a post from the Brooklyn track club runner Cara Enright. She posted a photo of her racing at the Armory Track in New York City, one of the most famous tracks to race at. The post was about her Indoor track race and how it went well. In the photo she is wearing her braids and looking determined running her relay race. Her post embodies a fast braid Friday runner, determined to have an amazing run. This is what the hashtag is all about using it to motivate others with the pictures you take with your fast braids.
Another recent post was done about cross country ski olympian and world champion, Jessie Diggins, and how she was working towards her goals in her fast braids. This reached further than the running community and has expanded to more sports. This is a special trait of the digital sphere, communities can intertwine and be part of multiple communities at once. The post about Jessie Diggins as an example, it demonstrates how digital communities can intertwine. First, fast braid Friday started out as a thing for only runners, Diggins is a skier. The fact that she still put in braids and hashtag it with fast braids Friday shows how broadly the community is growing. If an olympic skier can use it, and win a gold medal. Then anyone can throw their hair up in braids and conquer whatever they desire. The community is reaching new heights and going beyond the running community. I am eager to see if this trend countries and helps inspire and motivate athletes from every sport.
Jacobs, N., & Cooper, R. (2018). Living in Digital Worlds: Designing the Digital Public Space (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315592787
Naraine, Michael L., et al. “User Engagement from within the Twitter Community of Professional Sport Organizations.” Managing Sport & Leisure, vol. 24, no. 5, Sept. 2019, pp. 275–293. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/23750472.2019.1630665.
Norman, Mark, et al. “Public Sociology of Sport and Digital Media: A Self-Reflexive Analysis of Public Engagement in the ‘Hockey Blogosphere.’” Sociology of Sport Journal, vol. 36, no. 2, June 2019, pp. 135–143. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1123/ssj.2018-0103.