The homeless and the need for Facebook

Is Facebook and other social media becoming a necessity for the homeless?

An Ohio researcher thinks so. Art Jipson, an associated sociology professor at the University of Dayton, says the homeless may not have a place to live, but the one possession that’s becoming somewhat indispensable is a phone to connect on social networks.

“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.”

Jipson’s inspiration for the project came by happenstance. Also a researcher of the sociology of music, Jipson has a weekly radio show on the campus radio station, WUDR. When Jipson asked for one caller’s name and location, he was surprised to find the caller was homeless but has a cell phone. Jipson later contacted the caller and found he used the phone for social media – checking and writing messages on Facebook and Twitter.

He also found Facebook was necessary to solve practical problems — the next meal or a warm place to sleep.

He also found homeless people who are tired of defending the fact they’ve got a cellphone.

“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.”