On the Internet, Everyone Can Find a Home, Including the Homeless

A recent study reveals that the homeless use social networking just like everyone else, and that it helps them gain an increased sense of belonging to the wider community.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A University of Dayton study indicates that the homeless use Facebook and other social networking sites for the same reasons everyone else does: to stay in touch with people, to find answers to questions and problems, and to be part of a greater community. Sociologist Art Jipson got the idea for the project when a caller to his campus radio show disclosed that he was homeless but had a cell phone. Further interviews with the caller and other local homeless revealed that many of them used cell phones to check and write messages on social media sites. Most had 100 or more Facebook friends.

What’s the Big Idea?

The concept of the Internet as an open society isn’t new, but the prevalence of technology – in this case, affordable cell phones – has helped to make it truly egalitarian. In addition to the practical reasons given for their use of social media sites, the people interviewed for the study said that the sites can serve as a safe, judgement-free zone. According to Jipson, “[O]n Facebook, the ‘least of our brothers,’ as it says in the Bible, have equal access…and establish a sense of belonging that is based on more than possessions.” One interviewee put it very plainly: “No one on the ‘net cares if I didn’t get a shower yesterday or smell some…I feel accepted. I am accepted.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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