Homeless Find ‘Equality’ in Social Media
28 August 2012 at 10:09 am
A study out of the United States has found homeless people are increasingly engaging with social media because these sites give them a feeling of online equality and companionship.
Sociologist Art Jipson from the University of Dayton released the social networking findings in his paper, "Shall I Paint You a Protest: Marxist Analysis of Social Media" in Denver, Colorado.
Through his interviews, Jipson found the homeless he surveyed used social media not only to build support networks, but to solve practical issues such as where to find their next meal, where to find safe and warm places to sleep and where to find various social services.
"Why can't I be on Facebook?," asked one subject in the study. "I have as much right to that as anyone else. Just because I am homeless does not mean that I don't care about this stuff, you know? My family is on Facebook. My friends are on Facebook. People who care about me are on Facebook."
Another interviewee said, "No one on the 'net cares if I didn't get a shower yesterday or smell some. They don't judge me, you know? … I feel accepted. I am accepted."
The report highlighted that even the least commercially attractive social media users are just as equal as the most affluent users. While many social networking sites are driven by advertising dollars based on likes, clicks, comments, and status updates everyone is afforded the same services and benefits.
“Our posts become the commercial property of corporations that will do everything possible to generate revenue in the form of value for the company and stockholders rather than for the users," Jipson said.
“But, for homeless users of social media—which is a growing population—the value is for the online community itself, which is very egalitarian.
“They don't have much, and many may wonder how they can afford cell phones when they can't afford a place to live," Jipson said. "But, access to social media is in reach for them, too. All you need is a phone.”