In mainstream media, social media generally gets a bit of a bad rap. Young people often cop it with the rise of ‘selfies’ and the over share of personal information under scrutiny. Social media platforms are so multifaceted, transforming into virtually anything the author desires. Whether it be an extensive collection of selfies, a passionate blog about politics or a fundraising tool, social media is as diverse as the different people who use it.
One Facebook page has shown a unique way to harness the power of social media and personalise an issue that is often, figuratively and literally, overlooked by the ordinary person.
The page, titled Homeless of Melbourne (HoM), was created in August 2014 and has since accumulated over 20,000 followers on Facebook. In addition to this, the page exists over Twitter, Instagram and soon will have its own unique domain.
Founded by Robbie Gillies, Marcus Crook and Nick Pearce the page aims to raise awareness of Melbourne’s homeless population by sharing their stories and pictures. HoM claims that the stories shared are those told by the individuals in their own words, and that all content is published with permission. To give you an idea of the content shared, I’ve linked some posts which capture the aim and effect of the HoM page:
Authors and administrators of the page have effectively captured the attention, sympathy and empathy of their followers. By personalising the people often walked by, social media users get an insight into the life of a homeless person that would usually be unattainable without face-to-face interaction.
Now, no social media entity is without imperfections, as HoM has discovered. Facebook users have criticised the page for its slow reaction to comments of offered assistance and a lack of donation resources. In this instance, HoM’s flaw is that it did not grow in conjunction to its number of followers. It was not equipped to handle the bombardment of comments and donation requests coming from users. The page has tried to rectify this by including links in their ‘About’ module of appropriate charities.
One result of the HoM Facebook page and the hype surrounding it is the newly created HoMie, an associated organisation.
HoMie is a street-style store that sells clothing to the public. Having just secured a location in Melbourne Central, the store pledges to give an item of clothing to someone experiencing homelessness every time an item is sold in the store.
HoM and the HoMie store are two examples of the good that social media can do. They continue to successfully raise awareness of homeless issues and personify homeless people with the hopes of eradicating stigmas surrounding homelessness. Social media can go deeper than an endless feed of selfies, as Homeless of Melbourne has shown.