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Social media like Facebook, Twitter offer community to homeless, study findscomment (0)

September 6, 2012


Here is something everyone can “like:” Social media fosters community, even for those who do not have a home.

A new study finds social media like Twitter and Facebook tear down economic and geographic barriers to help homeless people connect to their families and support networks.

The study was conducted by Art Jipson, a sociologist and criminologist at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Jipson’s study, “Shall I Paint You a Protest: Marxist Analysis of Social Media,” was presented Aug. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver, Colo.

He found that homeless people leverage free online services to find food, shelter and job services, and to keep up with family and friends. 

“People think of Facebook as this billion-dollar entity with stock offerings that sells gobs of advertising,” Jipson said. “But on Facebook the ‘least of our brothers,’ as it says in the Bible, have equal access to all of Facebook’s offerings and establish a sense of belonging that is based on more than possessions.”

Jipson created his study after a homeless man won a prize on Jipson’s weekly radio show. When Jipson hand-delivered the prize he discovered the man used his smartphone to stream radio and connect with people on Facebook.

For the study, Jipson spoke with 14 homeless people about their social media usage.

“Why can’t I be on Facebook?” asked one subject in the study. “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.”

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.”

Jipson said, “We assume that we have nothing in common with people who are different from us — by whatever means we might measure that difference. But a study like this demonstrates that we have more in common than we do in difference.”  

(RNS)

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