Although it may be unexpected, University of Dayton sociologist and criminologist Art Jipson has found that the homeless are engaging in social media – where sites such as Facebook and Twitter are changing into a platform where all people are "truly equal".
"People think of Facebook as this billion-dollar entity with stock offerings that sells gobs of advertising," said Mr 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."
He found that social media wasn't only used to build support networks but to also deal with practical issues such as where they would find a safe place to sleep, where they would locate social services and where they would find their next meal.
One of the subjects in the study asked: "Why can't I be on Facebook?"
"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."
The research found that social media can be a 'refuge' for the homeless community, where they can have a place to engage and interact with other users without being judged.
Mr Jipson conducted several interviews with the homeless community to examine their use of social media – where most had more than 100 Facebook friends.
"They don't have much, and many may wonder how they can afford cell phones when they can't afford a place to live," Mr Jipson said.
"But, access to social media is in reach for them, too. All you need is a phone."
Posted by April Revake.