Social media helps the world stay connected, but what about those folks who aren’t connected to the world?
A new study has revealed that Twitter and Facebook are helping homeless people stay in touch with friends and family, liaise with support networks, and find food, shelter and job services.
All they need is a smart phone or access to a library with free internet services.
Art Jipson, a sociologist and criminologist at the University of Dayton, a Catholic school, spoke with fourteen homeless people about their social media usage. Jipson created his study after hand-delivering a prize to a homeless man who won a competition on Jipson’s weekly radio show, discovering that the man was using his phone to stream radio and connect with others on Facebook.
“Why can’t I be on Facebook?” questioned 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.”
“No one on the’net cares if I didn’t get a shower yesterday or smell some,” said another respondent. “They don’t judge me, you know? I feel accepted. I am accepted.”
Jipson believes these experiences foster community.
“People think of Facebook as this billion-dollar entity with stock offerings that sells gobs of advertising,” said Jipson. “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.”
“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.”