Social Perception on Homelessness

There is no denying that with social media, we are influenced heavily by what we see because we are exposed to it on a constant basis. However this is quite a big problem because they have been conditioning us to believe in whatever they post, or to influence how we think.

For example, on BBC news there was a post condemning the use of studs outside some flats to stop the homeless from sleeping outside (BBC News). Yet although the site talks about how these studs are inhumane, they still paint a negative image on the homelessness by including a resident saying they didn’t like walking past someone sleeping which doesn’t paint a nice image at all. By including these sorts of comments, it makes the average user probably nod their head in agreement as they relate to their own experiences.

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But why does this happen though? At some point in the human race, we thought that if anyone were lesser then us in terms of status, then it would be justified to look down on him or her. We have been brought up in society to believe in this, as it has become a social status symbol of sorts. A lot of influence has been done by outside sources to make us believe that what we see is real.

We need to cut through the bullshit of our own perceptions on the homeless, and actually address the proper problem as to what is going on. First, we must address some of the problems we have in our perception. The first is that many people view the homeless as a menace to society. Homeless people are often stereotyped as violent drug-users or alcoholics (Pogorelec). Yet we have no proof of this, we just believe in it; rather we should be trying to understand why people are homeless and for what reasons. And with this, we cannot just presume it is from drugs or alcohol, but rather there are a variety of reasons. To say that this is true of all homeless people is inaccurate. (Pogorelec)

We think that if we ignore the homeless, eventually our vision will be that we no longer see them. Why might this be? Because we are so used to a society in which values material objects over other things, we don’t want this to change. That is what society today has come to when we look at the homeless; our perception is that negative of them.
Within society today, there are things that we have to do to deem ourselves part of it, and others which we sneer at. Begging for example is something which society doesn’t like because it is deemed inappropriate. However, for someone living on the streets, this is part of their life because what else can do they? They can’t get up and get a job because they have no bank account, and they don’t have that because they have nowhere to live. So by the way society has set itself out, that is their only option. But because of their situation, homeless people are often pushed to the edges of society and find it difficult in accessing the most basic of support.

Anthropologist Joanne Passaro (1996) explains that we have a cultural tendency to place blame on the homeless because we believe that they should shoulder the responsibility for their circumstances as we think that they have failed in their social roles (Miller)

. This perception of “unworthiness” eases the complicated feelings and difficult questions that confront the general population about homelessness, to the point that we will just accept this with no qualms and carry on with life as normal as we are happy with what we have decided on.

There needs to be a change in how we see the homeless. We can’t always believe what we see, as things are doctored in order to make us feel/think in a particular way. We need to break down the stereotypes that are placed into society. It can happen to anyone at any time, so we shouldn’t presume the worst. In fact, we need to give these people the dignity that they deserve, but also to be recognised as part of society. They have experienced things that we can never dream off, and we can learn from them as well.

These people aren’t invisible. They were like us once. Social media has made us think that they are invisible, a threat that has to be ignored. This needs to change drastically, as what hope for society do we have if we are mindlessly led by what we see rather then what we experience and interact with?

BBC News,. ‘Anger Over Studs ‘To Stop Homeless”. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

Bicker, Phil. ‘Portraits Of The Homeless By Lee Jeffries | Lightbox | TIME.Com’. N.p., 2012. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

CHRISTIE, JOEL. ‘Emotional Campaign Trying To Break Down Stereotypes Of The Homeless’. Mail Online. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.,. ‘Ipsos MORI | Poll | Perceptions Of Homelessness’. N.p., 2015. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

Miller, Cynthia. ‘Images From The Streets: Art For Social Change From The Homelessness Photography Project’. Social Justice 33.2 (2015): n. pag. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

Pogorelec, Nicholas. ‘Society Needs To Change Perception Of The Homeless’. The Badger Herald. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

Tengtio, Katharine. ‘Challenging Our Perceptions Of Homelessness’. The Huffington Post UK. N.p., 2012. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

Passaro, Joanne 1996 The Unequal Homeless: Men on the Streets, Women in Their Place. New York: Routledge.


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