Sociologist: even the homeless need a phone to access social network sites

Here is an example of how prevalent social networking sites have become: a sociologist argues the homeless need a smart phone to be able to access such sites.

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.

This makes sense as access to information and online communities is quite helpful today. The homeless aren’t the only ones who need this these tools: recent studies have shown that some users even have physical withdrawal symptoms if they don’t have their smart phones with them.

I wonder if we could take this further and ask where smart phones or Internet devices rank on the list of necessary items for life today. Water, food, shelter, clothes…and then something that allows you to connect to the Internet? I suppose you need electricity (unless someone invents some endless batteries) before you can have functioning devices…


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